Skip to main content

Full text of "Tanks in the great war, 1914-1918"

See other formats







, ^^''^""■h' -—fjj^ 



Cornell University Library 
D 608.F96 

Tanks in the great war 1914-1918. 

3 1924 027 835 168 

Cornell University 

The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 




Brevet-Colonel J. F. C. FULLER, D.S.O. 

(Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) 




I dedicate this book to the modern military scientists, that 
small company oj gentlemen who, imbued with a great 
idea, were willing to set all personal interest aside in order 
to design a machine destined to revolutionise the science 

of war. 


/ dedicate this book to the modern armourers of the British 
factories, those men and women whose untiring patriotism 
and indomitable endurance in the workshops produced a 
weapon whereby the lives of many oJ their comrades were 



/ dedicate this book to the modern knights in armour, the 
fighting crews oj the Tank Corps ; those Officers, Non-com- 
missioned Officers and Men, who, through their own high 
courage and noble determination on the battlefield, main- 
tained Liberty and accomplished Victory. 


The following work is the story of a great and unique adven- 
ture as heroic as the exploits of the Argonauts of old, and, 
though the time perhaps has not yet arrived wherein to 
judge the part played by tanks in the Great War, I feel 
that, whatever may be the insight and judgment of the 
eventual historian of the British Tank Corps, he will prob- 
ably lack that essential ingredient of all true history — the 
witnessing of the events concerning which he relates. 

I, the writer of this book, first set eyes on a tank towards 
the end of August 1916. At this time I little thought that 
I should eventually be honoured by becoming the Chief 
General Staff Officer of the Tank Corps, for a period extend- 
ing from December 1916 to August 1918. The time 
spent during this long connection with the greatest military 
invention of the Great War, it is hoped, has not been alto- 
gether wasted, and the story here set forth represents my 
appreciation of having been selected to fill so intensely 
interesting an appointment. 

Besides having witnessed and partaken in many of the 
events related, those who have assisted me in this book 
have all been either closely connected with the Tank Corps 
or in the Corps itself, they one and all were partakers in 
either the creation of the Corps or in the many actions in 
which it fought. 

So much assistance have I received that I can at most 
but consider myself as editor to a mass of information 
provided for me by others. Those I more especially 
wish to thank [amongst this I goodly company are the 
following : 

Captain£the Hon. Evan Charteris, G.S.0.3, Tank Corps, 


for the accurate and careful records of the Corps which he 
compiled from the earliest days of the tank movement in 
1914, to the close of the battle of Cambrai. Many of these 
were written under, shall I say, far from luxurious circum- 
stances, for Captain Charteris, I feel, must have often found 
himself, in his shell-blasted estaminet, less well cared for 
than the rats of Albert and as much out of place as Alcibiades 
in a Peckham parlour. 

When Captain Charteris forsook the " cabaret sans nom," 
for some ill-disposed shell had removed half the signboard, 
Captain O. A. Archdale, A.D.C. to General EUes, took up 
the difficult task and, from March 1918 onwards, kept the 
Tank Corps Diary upon which Chapters XXIX, XXXIII, 
XXXV, and XXXVII are founded. 

Taking now the chapters seriatim, I have to thank Major 
G. W. G. Allen, M.C., G.S.0.2, War Office,' for parts of 
Chapter I, and also the editors of The American Machinist 
and The Engineer for allowing me to quote respectively from 
the following admirable articles : " The Forerunner of the 
Tank," by H. H. Manchester, and " The Evolution of the 
Chain Track Tractor " ; Sir Eustace Tennyson D'Eyncourt, 
K.C.B., Director of Naval Construction, the Admiralty, and 
Major-General E. D. Swinton, C.B., D.S.O., both pioneers 
of the tanks, and indefatigable workers in the cause, for 
much of the information in Chapters II and IV ; Major 
H. S. Sayer, G.S.0.2, War Office, = for Chapter III ; Major 
O. A. Forsyth-Major, Second in Command of the Palestine 
Tank Detachment, for the reports relative to the second 
and third battles of Gaza, upon which Chapters XI and 
XVII are based; Major S. H. Foot, D.S.O., G.S.0.2, War 
Office,' my close friend and fearless assistant, for suggestions 
generally, and particularly in Chapter XVI. My thanks are 
also due to some unknown but far-sighted benefactor of the 
Tank Corpsfor Chapter XX; to Lieutenant-ColonelD. W. Brad- 
ley, D.S.O., and Brigadier-General E. B. Mathew-Lannowe, 
C.M.G., D.S.O., G.O.C. Tank Corps Training Centre, Wool, for 

' Previously a Tank Corps engineer officer in France. a Ibid. 

^ Previously Brigade Major, 2nd Tank Brigade, in France. 


information regarding the Depot in Chapter XXI ; to the 
relentlessly inventive Lieutenant-Colonel L. C. A. de B. Doucet, 
O.C. Tank Carrier Units, and so commander of the first 
supply fleet which ever " set sail " on land, for information 
to be found in Chapter XXII ; to Lieutenant-Colonel 
J. D. M. Molesworth, M.C., A.D.A.S., Tank Corps, who in 
spite of the scholastics gave the lie to the tag Ex nihilo 
nihil fit, for parts of Chapter XXIV ; to Major R. Spencer, 
M.C., Liaison Officer, Tank Corps, whose unfailing charm 
and insight always succeeded in extracting from our brave 
Allies not only the glamour of great adventures but the 
detail of truthful occurrences, for the events described in 
Chapters XXV and XXXVI; to Major F. E. Hotblack, 
D.S.O., M.C., G.S.0.2, War Office,^ my friend and com- 
panion, who unfailingly would guide any one over wire 
and shell-hole immune and unscathed, for Chapters XXVIII, 
XXX:i, and XXXIV ; to Lieutenant C. B. Arnold, D.S.O., 
Commander of Whippet Tank " Musical Box," for the simple 
and heroic exploit related in Chapter XXX ; to Major T. L. 
Leigh Mallory, D.S.O., O.C. 8th Squadron, R.A.F., whose 
energy resulted not only in the cementing of a close com- 
radeship between the two supreme mechanical weapons of 
the age but of a close co-operation which saved many lives 
in battle, for much of Chapter XXXII ; to Lieutenant- 
Colonel E. J. Carter, O.C. 17th Tank Armoured Car Battalion, 
who was as great a terror to the German Corps Commanders 
as Paul Jones was to the Manchester merchantmen and who 
had the supreme honour to break over the Rhine the first 
British flag — the colours of the Tank Corps — for Chapter 

It was a great brotherhood, the Tank Corps, and if there 
were " duds " in it there certainly were not old ones, for 
the Commander of the Corps, Major-General H. J. EUes, C.B., 
D.S.O., was under forty, and most of his staff and sub- 
ordinate commanders were younger than himself. Youth 
is apt, rightly, to be enthusiastic, and General Elles must 
frequently have had a trying time in regulating this enthu- 
1 Previously G.S.0.2, Intelligence Headquarters, Tank Corps. 


siasm, canalising it forward against the enemy and backward 
diplomatically towards our friends. 

We of the Tank Corps Headquarters Staff knew what we 
wanted. Realising the power of the machine which the brains 
of England had created, we never hesitated over a " No " 
when we knew that hundreds if not thousands of lives 
depended on a " Yes." 

Modestly, looking back on the war from a comfortable 
armchair in London, I see clearly, quite clearly, that we were 
right. The war has proved it, and our endeavours were not 
in vain. We were right, and youth generally is right, for it 
possesses mental elasticity, its brains are plastic and not 
polarised. The mental athlete is the young man : the Great 
War, like all other wars, has proved this again and again. 
We have heard much of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, but 
they scoffed at the tank just as Wurmser and Alvinzi scoffed 
at the ragged voltigeurs of the Army of Italy with which 
the Little Corporal was, in 1796, about to astonish Europe. 
We have also astonished Europe, we who wandered over the 
Somme battlefield with dimmed eyes, and over the Flanders 
swamps with a lump in our throats. 

There was Colonel F. Searle, C.B.E., D.S.O., Chief Engineer 
of the Corps, a true civilian with a well-cut khaki jacket 
and lion-tamer's boots. He could not understand the mili- 
tary ritual, and we soldiers seemed never to be able to 
explain it to him. Throughout the war, in spite of his im- 
mense mechanical labours, I verily believe he had only one 
wish, and this was to erect a guillotine outside a certain 
holy place. There was Major G. A. Green, M.C., Colonel 
Searle's deputy, the father of terrible propositions, the 
visitor of battlefields, the searcher after shell-holes, the 
breather of profane words. The Corps owed a lot to Green ; 
a firm believer in seeing things before criticising them, he 
was a very great asset. 

The " King of Grocers," this was Colonel T. J. Uzielli, 
D.S.O., M.C., D.A. and Q.M.G. of the Corps, business-like, 
and an administrator from boot to crown. Suave yet fear- 
less, tactful yet truthful, the Corps owed much to his abilitv. 


It was never left in want, his decision gave it what it asked 
for, his prevision cut down this asking to a minimum. Ably 
seconded by Major H. C. Atkin-Berry, D.S.O., M.C., and 
Major R. W. Dundas, M.C., the " A " and " Q " branches of the 
Tank Corps Staff formed the foundation of the Corps' efficiency. 
On the " G " side there was myself. Under me came 
Major G. le Q. Martel, D.S.O., M.C., very much R.E. and 
still more tanks, the man who " sloshed " friend or foe. 
One day, in March 1918, I was at Fricourt, then none too 
healthy. Martel walked down the road : " Where are you 
going ? " I shouted. " To Montauban," he answered. " I 
hear it is full of Boche," I replied. " Well, I will go and 
see," said Martel, and off he moved eastwards. There was 
Major F. E. Hotblack, D.S.O., M.C., lover of beauty and 
battles, a mixture of Abelard and Marshal Ney. Were Ninon 
de I'Enclos alive he would have been at her elbow ; as she is 
dust, he, instead, collected "troddels " ^off dead Germans — a 
somewhat remarkable character. As G.S.0.2 Training, Major 
H. Boyd-Rochfort, D.S.O., M.C., from West Meath, his 
enthusiasm for tanks nearly wrecked a famous corps; yet 
Boyd only smiled, and his smile somehow always reminded 
one of Peter Kelly's whisky, there was a handshake or a 
fight in it. The two G.S.O.sS were Captain the Hon. E. 
Charteris and Captain I. M. Stewart, M.C. Charteris was 
the " Arbiter Elegantiarum " of our Headquarters. He kept 
the Corps' records, as already stated, and without these it 
would scarcely have been possible to write this history. He 
was our mattre cCMtel ; he gave us beach nut bacon and 
honey for breakfast, kept his weather eye open for a one- 
armed man, elaborated menus which rivalled those of 
Trimalchio, and gave sparkle to us all by the ripple of his 
wit. Lastly, Ian Stewart of the Argyll and Sutherland 
Highlanders. In kilts, no girl between Hekla and Erebus has 
ever been konwn to resist him ; but his efforts, whilst in the 
Tank Corps, did not lie in conquering hearts but in perpetually 
worrying my unfortunate self to become party to his own 
suicide — for nothing would keep him from the battlefield. 

' German bayonet tassels. 


The first three brigadiers of the Corps were all remark- 
able men. Brigadier-General C. D'A. B. S. Baker-Carr, 
C.M.G., D.S.O., commanding the 1st Tank Brigade, started 
the war as a gentleman chauffeur, a most cheery companion, 
the Murat of the Corps, ever ready for a battle or a game. 
I remember him at Montenescourt, during the battle of 
Arras 1917, fighting with the telephone, at Ypres fighting 
with the nnud, at Cambrai fighting with a comfortable, vacant, 
rotund little man, but ever cheerful and prepared to meet 
you with a smile and a glass of old brandy. Commanding 
the 2nd Tank Brigade was Brigadier-General A. Courage, 
D.S.O., M.C. He possessed only half a jaw, having lost the 
rest at Ypres ; yet at conferences he was a host in himself, 
and what a " pow-wow " must have been like before the 
Boche bullet hit him is not even to be found in the works 
of the great Munchausen. No detail escaped his eye, no 
trouble was too great, and no fatigue sufficient to suggest a 
pause. The successes of Hamel and Moreuil in 1918 were 
due to his energy, and on these successes was the battle of 
Amiens founded. The last of the original Brigadiers was 
Brigadier-General J. Hardress-Lloyd, D.S.O., commanding 
the 3rd Tank Brigade. He started the war as a stowaway. 
This resulted in no one ever discovering what his substantive 
rank was ; by degrees a myth as to his origin was cultivated 
by innumerable "A" clerks both in France and England; 
these lived and throve on this mystery, which no doubt will 
at a distant date be elucidated by some future Lempri^re. 
Hardress-Lloyd was one of the main causes of the battle of 
Cambrai. He, I believe, introduced the idea to General Sir 
Julian Byng, this away back in August 1917. Hardress- 
Lloyd was a man of big ideas and always kept a good table 
and a fine stable — in fact, a heau sahreur. I will leave 
Hardress at that. 

Above are to be sought the real foundations of the Corps' 
efficiency under its gallant Commander, Major-General H. J. 
EUes, C.B., D.S.O., who endowed it with that high moral, 
that fine esprit de corps and jaunty esprit de cocarde which 
impelled it from one success to another. These foundations 


no future historian is likely to be so intimately acquainted 
with as I — and now for the story.^ 

The history itself is purposely uncritical, because any 
criticism which might have been included is so similar to 
that directed against the introducers of the locomotive 
and the motor-car that it would be but a repetition, tedious 
enough to the reader, were it here repeated. 

Human opinion is conservative by instinct, and what to 
mankind is most heterodox is that which is most novel : this 
is a truism in war as it is in pohtics or reUgion. It took 
1000 years for gunpowder to transform war. In 1590, a 
certain Sir John Smythe wrote a learned work : " Certain 
discourses concerning the forms and effects of divers sorts 
of weapons, and other very important matters militarie, 
greatUe mistaken by divers of our men of warre in these 
dales ; and chiefly, of the Mosquet, the Caliver, and the 
Long-bow ; as also of the great sufficiencie, excellencie and 
wonderful effects of Archers," in which he extols an obso- 
lete weapon and decries a more modern one — ^the arquebus. 
" For the reactionaries of his time George Stephenson with 
his locomotive was the original villan of the piece ; he was 
received with unbridled abuse and persecution. Most of 
Stephenson's time was spent in fighting fools." ^ At the 
beginning of the present century nearly every Enghsh coimtry 
gentleman swore that nothing would ever induce him to 
exchange his carriage for a motor-car — yet the locomotive 
and the motor-car have triumphed, and triumphed so com- 
pletely that all that their inventors claimed for them appears 
to-day as hostile criticism against their accomplishments. 

So with the tank, it has come not only to stay but to 
revolutionise, and I for one, enthusiastic as I am, do not for 
a minute doubt that my wildest dreams about its future 
will not only be realised but surpassed, and that from its 
clumsy endeavours in the Great War will arise a completely 
new direction in the art of warfare itself. 

1 Certain chapters of this history origiaally appeared in a privately cir- 
culated series of papers entitled Weekly Tank Notes. 

2 Hcmii to make Railways Pay for the War, p. 6. By Roy Horniman. 



That the Tank had, and still has, many doubters, many 
open critics, is true enough ; but there is no disparagement 
in this, rather is it a comphment, for the masses of mankind 
are myopic, and had they accepted it with acclaim how 
difficult would it have been for it even to come, let alone stay 
and grow. 

The criticism directed against this greatest military in- 
vention of the war was the stone upon which its progress 
was whetted. Without criticism we might still have Big 
Willie, but we enthusiasts determined that not only would 
we break down this criticism by means of the machine 
itself, but that we would render our very machine ridiculous by 
machines of a better type, and it is ridicule which kills. So we 
proceeded, and as type followed type, victory followed victory. 
Then our critics tacked and veered : it was not the tank they 
objected to but our opinions regarding it ; they were over- 
statements ; why, we should soon be claiming for it powers 
to boil their morning tea and shave them whilst still in 
bed. Why not ? If such acts are required, a tank can 
be built to accomplish them, because the tank possesses 
power and energy, and energy is the motive force of all 

It is just this point that the critics missed ; their minds 
being controlled by the conventions of the day. They could 
not see that if the horse-power in a man is x, that the cir- 
cumference of his activities is a circle with x as its radius. 
They could not see that if the horse-power of a machine is 
lOOa; its circumference will be vastly greater than that of 
man's ; neither could they see that whilst in man x is con- 
stant, provided the man is supplied regularly with beef, 
bread and beer, in a machine x may be increased almost in- 
definitely, and that if a circle with n as its circumference will 
not embrace the problem, probably all that is necessary is to 
add more x's to its radius. Indeed, the science of mechanics 
is simplicity itself when compared with that of psychology, and 
as in war mechanics grow so will psychology, in comparison, 
dwindle, imtil perhaps we may see in armies as complete a 
change from hand-weapons to machine-weapons as we have 


seen in our workshops from hand-tools to machine-tools, 
and the economy will be as proportionate. 

Before the Great War I was a believer in conscription 
and in the Nation in Arms; I was an 1870 soldier. My 
sojourn in the Tank Corps has dissipated these ideas. To- 
day I am a believer in war mechanics, that is, in a mechanical 
army which requires few men and powerful machines. 
Equally am I a disbehever in what a venerable acquaintance, 
old in ideas rather than years, said to me on the afternoon 
of November 11th, 1918. These are his words, and I repeat 
them as he exclaimed them : " Thank God we can now get 
back to real soldiering ! " 

J. F. C. F. 

Langham Hotel, London, W.l. 
November 20, 1919. 









VII. TANK "esprit DE CORPS " 














































BATTLE OF ARRAS ..... 250 



QUENTIN ...... 266 




PLISHED ...... 297 


INDEX 323 






TANK ....... Frontispiece 






TANK 186 

V. MARK V TANK (MALE) ...... 204 






3. HOLZSCHUHER'S battle CAR, 1558 

4. SIMON stevin's landship, 1599 


6 and 6a. the batter tractor, 1888 

7 to 15. TANK tactics . 









12 and 13 

75 and 77 

. 115 





I. THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL 9, 1917 ... 84 





VI. THE BATTLE OF SOISSONS, JULY 18, 1918 . . 192 

VII. THE BATTLE OF HAMEL, JULY 4, 1918 . . . 206 



X. GENERAL MAP ..... End of Volume 




In war the main problem to solve is — " How to give blows 
without receiving them " ; it has always been so and is 
likely always to remain so, for battles are two-act tragedies : 
the first act consisting in hitting and the second in securing 
oneself against being hit. 

If we look back on the 4,000 years of the known history 
of war, we shall find that its problems are always the same : 
thus in battle the soldier has to think of four main acts : 
(i) How to strike his opponent when at a distance from 

(ii) How to move forward towards him; 

(iii) How to strike him at close quarters ; 

(iv) How to prevent himself being struck throughout the 
whole of this engagement. 

In these four acts must be sought the origins of the tank, 
the idea of which is, therefore, much older than the Trojan 
horse ; indeed, it dates back to some unknown period when 
aboriginal man raised his arm to ward off the blow of an 
infuriated beast or neighbour. 

To ward off a blow with the bare skin is sometimes a 
painful operation ; why not then cover the arm with leather 
or iron, why not carry a shield, why not encase the whole 
body in steel so that both arms instead of one may be used 
to hit with, for then man's offensive power will be doubled ? 

If we look back on the Middle Ages, we find that such 
a condition of fighting was actually possible and that knights 
clad in armour cap-a-pie were practically invulnerable. 



As regards these times th^re is an authentic record concern- 
ing twenty-five knights in armour who rode out one day 
and met a great mob of insurgent peasants which they 
charged and routed, killing and wounding no fewer than 1,200 
of them, without sustaining a single casualty themselves. 
To all intents and purposes, these knights were living tanks 
— a combination of muscular energy, protective armour, and 
offensive weapons. 

Knights in armour remained practically invulnerable as 
long as the propellant for missile weapons was hmited to 
the bow-string and as long as the knights fought within the 
limitations which their armour imposed upon them. At 
Crecy and similar battles, the chivalry of France suffered 
defeat more through the condition of ground they attempted 
to negotiate, than through the arrows of the English archers. 
They, in fact, became " ditched " like a tank in the mud, 
and being rendered immobile, fell an easy prey to the enemy's 
men-at-arms. A fact which proves that it was not the 
arrow which generally destroyed the knight is that the 
archers were equipped with maces or leaden hammers ^ by 
means of which the knight could, when once bogged or 
" belHed," be stunned, rendered innocuous, his armour 
opened, and he himself taken prisoner for ransom. 

The true banisher of armour was gunpowder, for when 
once the thickest armour, which human energy would per- 
mit of being worn, could be penetrated, it became but an 
encumbrance to its wearer. Though gunpowd«r was intro- 
duced as a missile propellant on the battlefield as early as 
the twelfth century, it was not until the close of the four- 
teenth and beginning of the fifteenth centuries that its influ- 
ence began to be felt, and it is interesting to note that 
directly it became apparent that the hand gun would beat 
armour carried by men, other means of carrying it were 
introduced. These means took the form of battle cars or 

1 The arrow was the means of immobilising the knight by forcing him to 
dismount. Horse armour was never very satisfactory. Kegarding the 
maces, a chronicler writes of their use by tl;ie archers at Aginoourt : " It 
seemed as though they were hammering upon anvils." 

-''^'"4"i'-iii_ ii!'ji: |.u|L! I'l, ijiL;; 


Diagram 1. Scottish Wab Cart, 1456. 


mobile fortresses/ Conrad Kyeser,' in his military manu- 
script, written between 1395 and 1405, pictures several 
" battle cars." Some of these are equipped with lances, 
whilst others are armed with cannon. A few years later, in 
1420, Fontana designed a large " battle car," and the 
following year Archinger another, to enclose no fewer 
than 100 men. All these cars were moved by means of 
muscle power, i.e. men or animals harnessed inside them. 
A picture of one of these is to be found in Francis Grose's 
Military Antiquities, vol. I, p. 388 (see Diagram 1). Its 
crew consisted of eight men, the same as the Mark I Tank. 
The following extract concerning these carts is of interest : 

" Another species of artillery were the war carts, each 
carrying two Peteraros or chamber'd pieces ; several of 
these carts are represented in the Cowdry picture of the 
siege of Bullogne, one of which is given in this work ; these 
carts seem to have been borrowed from the Scotch ; Henry, 
in his History of England, mentions them as peculiar to 
that nation, and quotes the two following acts of parliament 
respecting them; one a.d. 1456 wherein they are thus de- 
scribed : ' it is tocht speidfull that the King mak requiest 
to certain of the great burrows of the land that are of ony 
myght, to mak carts of weir, and in elk cart twa gunnis and 
ilk one to have twa chalmers, with the remnant of the graith 
that effeirs thereto, and an cunnard man to shute thame.' 
By another Act, a.d. 1471, the prelates and barons are com- 
manded to provide such carts of war against their old 
enemies the English (Black Acts, James II, Act 52, James III, 
Act 55)." 

With all these war carts the limitations imposed upon 
them by muscular motive force must have been consider- 
able on any save perfectly firm and level ground, conse- 

^ The idea of a mobile fortress or battle car is very old : chariots are known 
to have existed in Assyria as far back as the year 3500 B.C. The Egyptians 
and Israelites both adopted them from this source. In Biblical times their 
tactical utility was considerable, as the Book of Judges relates. The Chinese 
as early as 1200 B.C., made use of war cars armotu-ed against projectiles. 

2 Much of the following information is taken from an article entitled 
" The Forerunner of the Tank," by H. H. Manchester, published in The 
American Mechanist, vol. 49, No. 15. 


quently other means of movement were attempted, and 
during the last quarter of the fifteenth century the battle 
car enters its second phase. In a work of Valturio's dated 
1472, a design is to be found of one of these vehicles pro- 
pelled by means of wind wheels (see Diagram 2). Ten years 
later we find Leonardo da Vinci engaged in the design of 

Diagram 2. Valtueio's Wab Chariot, 1472. 

another type of self-moving machine. Writing to Ludovico 
Sforza he says : 

" I am building secure and covered chariots which are 
invulnerable, and when they advance with their guns into 
the midst of the foe, even the largest enemy masses must 
retreat ; and behind them the infantry can follow in safety 
and without opposition." 

What the motive force of this engine of war was is un- 
known, but the above description is that of the tank of to- 
day, in fact so accurate is this description that Leonardo 




da Vinci, nearly 350 years ago, had a clearer idea of a tank 
operation than many a British soldier had prior to the 
battle of Cambrai, fourteen months after the first tank had 
taken the field. 

DiAQBAM 4. Simon Stevin's Landship, 1599. 

A somewhat similar self-moving wagon was designed for 
Maximilian I and in 1558 Holzschuher describes a battle car 
a picture of which shows it jn action preceded by infantry 
and flanked b y cavalry (se e Diagram"^ 


In 1599 Simon Stevin is supposed to have constructed for 
the Prince of Orange two veritable landships ; these con- 
sisted in small battleships fully rigged, mounted upon wheels 
(see Diagram 4). 

" The earhest Enghsh patent for a self-moving wagon 
which could, if desired, be used in war, was probably that* 
taken out by David Ramsey in 1634. In 1658 Caspar Schott 
designed one to inclose 100 men and to be employed against 
the Turks." ' 

All the users of these inventions were destined to disap- 
pointment, for the science of mechanics was not sufficiently 
advanced to render self-movement practical and it was not 
until the middle of the eighteenth century that a fresh at- 
tempt was made to reintroduce so essential a weapon as 
the war cart. The following account of this reintroduction 
is quoted from Mr. Manchester's most interesting article : 

" After the practical application of steam by Watt in 1765 
we "find an early attempt to apply it to land transporta- 
tion in what must be considered the first steam automobile. 
As early as 1769 Cugnot in France set a steam boiler upon 
the frame of a wagon and succeeded in making the wagon 
go. His idea was that this invention could be used in war, 
and on this presumption he was the next year assisted by 
the government to construct an improvement. The speed, 
however, was scarcely more than 2j miles an hour, and the 
machine would run only twenty minutes before it had to 
stop for fifteen minutes to get up more steam. In his first 
public trial he had the ill-luck to run into and knock down 
part of a stone wall. This led to his being temporarily cast 
into jail, and his experiments were abandoned. Napoleon 
must have visualised the possibilities of Cugnot's machine 
for military purposes, for when the great general was selected 
a member of the French Institute, the subject of his paper 
was ' The Automobile in War.' " 

The " battle car " had now, at least experimentally, 
evolved into the steam wagon which could run on roads; the 

1 " The Forerunner of the Tank," by H. H. Manchester. 


next step was to invent one which would move in any direc 
tion across country, in other words to replace the wheels 
by tracks. The evolution of the caterpi llar tractor brings 
us to the fourth phase in the evolution of the'~**ibattle car." 

The idea of distributing the weight of a vehicle over a 
greater area than that provided by its own wheels is by no 
means a novel one ; one year after Cugnot produced the 
first steam automobile Richard Lovell Edgeworth patented 
a device whereby a portable railway could be attached to a 
wheeled carriage ; it consisted of several pieces of wood , 
which moved in regular succession in such a manner that a 
sufficient length of railing was constantly at rest for the 
wheels to roll upon. The principle of this device was but 
a modification of that upon which the tracks of tanks now 
depend, and all subsequent ideas were founded on this basis.' 

The endless chain track passed through various early 
patents. In 1801 Thomas German produced " a means of 
facilitating the transit of carriages by substittiting endless | 
chains or a series of rollers for the ordinary wheels." This 
definitely cut adrift from the idea of wheels and replaced it 
by that of tracks. In 1812 William Palmer produced a 
somewhat similar invention, and in 1821 John Richard 
Barry patented a contrivance consisting of two endless 
pitched chains, stretched out and passing round two chain 
wheels at the end of the carriage, one on each side, which 
formed the rails or bearing surface of the vehicle. 

Footed wheels were not, however, abandoned, and in 
1846 a picture of the Boydell engine shows the wheels of 
this machine fitted with feet. In 1861 an improved wheel- 
foot was patented by Andrew Dunlop which was modified 
by other inventors and by degrees evolved into the pedrail, 
trials of which were carried out at Aldershot under the War 
Office in 1905. 

In 1882 Guillaume Fender of Buenos Aires suggested 
and John Newburn patented certain improvements to end- 
less tracks. Fender reahsed that the attempts to produce 

1 For Edgeworth's invention and the short summary of the footed-wheel, 
etc. which follows see The Engineer, August 10, 1917, and following issues. 




endless travelling railways had not met with great success 
owing to the shortness of the rails or tracks employed ; 
he, therefore, proposed that their length should be the same 
as the distance between the vehicle's axles. If it were 
desired to have short links the number of wheels must be 
increased ; furthermore, should the tractor be used for 
hauling a train of wagons, the endless track should be long 
enough to embrace all the wheels. This is the original idea 
of the all-round track. 

Among the many interesting patents of about this date 
were the Applegarth tractor of 1886 (see Diagram 5) and 

'The G-ne,in£eii.' 

Diagram 5. The AppLEaARTH Teactob, 1886. 

the Batter tractor of 1888. In the former the forward 
portion of the track was inclined and suggests the contour 
of the track as apphed to the front of tanks. The track 
being raised in front gives an initial elevation when an 
obstacle is met with and very greatly assists in surmounting 
banks and other irregularities. 

Diagram 6 depicts the Batter tractor and it clearly shows 
the basic ideas which have been employed in tank trans- 
mission and tank design. This tractor was patented in the 
U.S.A., it was furnished with two tracks, their contour 
very closely resembling those of the Medium Mark " A " 
(Whippet) and gun-carrier machines (see Plates III and VII) 


The motive power was steam, and two separate engines, fed 
by one boiler, were used, one to drive each track ; appar- 
ently provision was made, if desired, for the crankshafts of 
these engines to be clutched together. Each track consisted 
of two endless belts, an inner and an outer ; the outer belt, 
that which impinges on the ground, was composed of shoes 
arranged transversely and coupled together. Between the 
outer belt and the rollers ran the inner belt. The inner belt 
or link was of much less width than the outer and thus 
allowed the latter to swivel and adapt itself to irregularities 
of the ground, whilst the working of the rollers was not 
interfered with. A system almost identical with this one 
has recently been adopted for tank tracks. 

The rollers were alternately flanged and plain, as on tanks. 
Two tails for steering and balancing the machine were fitted ; 
a similar idea was adopted on Mark I machines and gun 
carriers, but subsequently discarded. 

The general introduction of the internal-combustion 
engine and petrol as a fuel gave a further impetus to the 
tracked machine. In 1900 Frank Bramond patented a 
track which could be apphed to pneumatic-tyred vehicles, 
either to single wheels or to two pairs of wheels. In 1907 a 
Rochet-Schneider was fitted with a track by Roberts and 
tested at Aldershot. This car was exhibited together with 
a 70 h.p. Hornsby chain- track tractor and took part in the 
Royal Review at Aldershot in May 1908. This same year 
Hornsby fitted up a 75 h.p. Mercedes motor-car with a 
track to demonstrate its advantages for high-speed work on 
sand. " This car was run daily for five months at Skegness, 
on loose sand, and it is understood that a speed of twenty 
miles an hour was obtained." ' 

Of later years, American inventors and manufacturers 
have made great progress in chain-track tractors, but prac- 
tically all the principles of design were originally apphed 
in Great Britain. The Holt caterpillar is the outstanding 
American design for tractors which has been adopted during 
the war. 

1 The Engineer, ibid. 


It is interesting to note with reference to the above in- 
ventions that neither Germany nor Austria ever appears to 
have contributed any basic suggestion relating to track- 
driven machines. 

To return now to the mihtary aspect of our subject, 
gunpowder did away with armour, for if armour can be 
pierced its defensive value is lost and it only becomes an 
encumbrance to the wearer by reducing his mobility and 
exhausting his muscular energy. Did this change the main 
problem in the art of war ? Not at all, for " the giving of 
blows without receiving them " remains the unchangeable 
object of battle irrespective of the change of weapons, and 
all that happened was, that the soldier, no longer being able 
to seek protection by body-armour, sought it elsewhere^ — by 
manoeuvring, by covering fire and entrenchments as typified 
in the drill of Frederick the Great, the cannonades and 
sharpshooters' fire of Napoleon, the fortifications of Vauban, 
and later on the use of ground by Wellington as cover from 

The opening of the war in 1914 saw all sides equipped 
with' similar weapons and in comparatively similar pro- 
portions. The great sweep of the Germans through 
Belgium was followed by the battle of the Marne, a generic 
term for a series of bloody engagements which raged from 
Lorraine to Paris. Then came the great reaction — the Ger- 
man retreat to the Aisne, the heights along which had been 
hastily prepared for defence. The battle swayed whilst 
vigour lasted and then stabilised as exhaustion intervened. 
At first cautiously, then rapidly, did the right flank of the 
German Armies and the left flank of those of the French 
and British seek to out-manoeuvre each other. This led to 
the race for the coast. Meanwhile came the landing of the 
British 7th Division at Zeebrugge and then the First Battle 
of Ypres, which closed the German offensive on the British 
front for three years and four months. 

The quick-firing field-gun and the machine-gun, used de- 
fensively, proved too strong for the endurance of the attackers, 
who were forced to seek safety by means of their spades. 


rather than through their rifles. Whole fronts were en- 
trenched, and before the end of 1914, except for a few small 
breaks, a man could have walked by trench, had he wished 
to, from Nieuport almost into Switzerland. 

With the trench came wire entanglements — the horror of 
the attack, and the trinity of trench, machine-gun, and wire, 
made the defence so strong that each offensive operation 
in turn was brought to a standstill. 

The problem which then confronted us was a twofold one : 

Firstly, how could the soldier in the attack be protected 
against shrapnel, shell-sphnters, and bullets ? Helmets were 
reintroduced, armour was tried, shields were invented, but 
all to no great purpose. 

Secondly, even if bullet-proof armour could be invented, 
which it certainly could, how were men laden down with it 
going to get through the wire entanglements which protected 
every position ? 

Three definite solutions were attempted — the first, artil- 
le ry ; the se cond, gas ; and the third, tanks^ach of which 
"is'^a definrEe~anFwer 'To~oaiF^'roBIem if the conditions are 
favourable for its use. Thus at the battle of the Dunajec, 
in the spring of 1915, the fire of Mackensen's massed artillery 
smashed the Russian front ; tliis success being due as much 
to the fewness of the Russian guns as to the skill of that 
great soldier. At the Second Battle of Ypres the German 
surprise gas attack succeeded because the British and French 
possessed no antidote. At the First Battle of Cambrai, 
the use of tanks on good firm ground proved an over- 
whelming success, whilst at the Third Battle of Ypres, on 
account of the mud, they were an all but complete failure. 

All armies attempted the first method by increasing the 
number of their guns, the size of their guns, and the quan- 
tity of their ammunition. So thoroughly was this done that 
whole sectors of an enemy's front were blasted out of recog- 
nition. This, however, was only accomplished after all 
surprise had been sacrificed by obvious preparation during 
which notice and time were given to the enemy to mass his 
reserves in order to meet the attack. Further than this. 


though the enemy's wire and trenches were destroyed all 
communications on his side of "No Man's Land " were 
obliterated, with the result that a new obstacle, " the crumped 
area," proved as formidable an antagonist to a continuous 
advance, by hampering supply, as uncut wire had done to a 
successful assault, by forbidding infantry movement. 

Instead of solving the problem : " How could mobility 
be reintroduced on the Western Front ? " the great in- 
crease in artillery, during 1915 and 1916, only complicated it, 
for, though the preliminary bombardment cut the wire and 
blew in the enemy's trenches and the creeping barrage pro- 
tected the infantry in a high degree, every artillery attack 
during two years ended in failure due to want of surprise at 
its initiation and the impossibility of adequate supply during 
its progress. 

The Germans attempted the second method — gas, and 
from the Second Battle of Ypres the chemist fell in alongside 
the soldier. That gas might have won the war is to-day 
too obvious to need accentuation. Two conditions were 
alone requisite— sufficient gas and a favourable wind. For- 
tunately for us the German did not wait long enough to 
manufacture gas in quantity ; unfortunately for them the 
prevailing wind on the Western Front is westerly, conse- 
quently when we and the French retaliated they got more 
than they ever gave us. 

The introduction of gas still further complicated the 
problem, for, whilst it is easy for the defender to launch gas 
clouds, it is difficult for an attacker to do so, consequently 
once soldiers had been equipped with respirators the defence 
gained by this method of fighting and warfare became still 
more immobile. 

As regards the British front the opening day of the First 
Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916, showed, through the 
terrible casualty hsts which followed, how far the defence 
had become the stronger form of war. At no date in the 
whole history of the war was a stalemate termination to all 
our endeavours more certain. The hopes of nearly two years 
were shattered in a few hours before the ruins of Thiepval, 


Serre, and Gommecourt, where our men fell in thousands 
before the deadly machine-gun fire of the enemy. Eleven 
weeks later, on September 15, a solution to the problem 
became apparent, a solution due to the efforts of a small 
band of men, of whose energy and endeavours the next 
chapter will relate. 



It is not proposed in this chapter to give an answer to the 
question : " Who first thought of the tank ? " The idea 
of combining mobiHty with offensive power and armour, 
as the previous chapter has shown, is a very old one, so old 
and so universal throughout history that, when the Great 
War broke out in 1914, many soldiers and civihans alike 
must have considered ways and means of reintroducing 
the knight in armour and the battle car by replacing muscular 
energy by mechanical force — in other words, by applying 
petrol to the needs of the battlefield. 

During August and September 1914, armoured cars had 
been employed with considerable success in Belgium and 
north-western France. This no doubt brought with it the 
revival of the idea. Be this as it may, in October of this 
year Lieutenant-Colonel (now Major-General) E. D. Swinton 
put forward a suggestion for the construction of an armoured 
car on the Holt tractor or a similar caterpillar system, 
capable of crushing down wire entanglements and crossing 

At the same time. Captain T. G. TuUoch, manager of 
the Chilworth Powder Company, was also devoting his 
attention to the possibility of constructing a land cruiser 
sufficiently armoured to enable it to penetrate right up to 
the enemy's gun and howitzer positions. In November the 
idea was communicated by Captain TuUoch to Lieutenant- 
Colonel Swinton and to Lieutenant-Colonel (now Colonel Sir 
Maurice) Hankey, Secretary to the " Committee of Imperial 
Defence," and later on to Mr. Churchill, then First Lord of 
the Admiralty, who, in January 1915, wrote his now historic 
letter to Mr. Asquith : 



" My Dear Prime Minister, 

" I entirely agree with Colonel Hankey's remarks on 
the subject of special mechanical devices for taking trenches. 
It is extraordinary that the Army in the field and the War 
Office should have allowed nearly three months of warfare 
to progress without addressing their minds to its special 

" The present war has revolutionised all military theories 
about the field of fire. The power of the rifle is so great 
that 100 yards is held sufficient to stop any rush, and in 
order to avoid the severity of the artillery fire, trenches 
are often dug on the reverse slope of positions, or a short 
distance in the rear of villages, woods, or other obstacles. 
The consequence is that the war has become a short-range 
instead of a long-range war as was expected, and opposing 
trenches get ever closer together, for mutual safety from 
each other's artillery fire. 

" The question to be solved is not, therefore, the long 
attack over a carefully prepared glacis of former times, but 
the actual getting across 100 or 200 yards of open space 
and wire entanglements. All this was apparent more than 
two months ago, but no steps have been taken and no 
preparations made. 

" It would be quite easy in a short time to fit up a number ] 
of steam tractors with small armoured shelters, in which I 
men and machine-guns could be placed, which would be 1 
bullet-proof. Used at night they would not be affected by > 
artillery fire to any extent. The caterpillar system would , 
enable trenches to be crossed quite easily, and the weight of | 
the machine would destroy all wire entanglements. 

" Forty or fifty of these engines, prepared secretly and 
brought into positions at nightfall, could advance quite 
certainly into the enemy's trenches, smashing away all the 
obstructions and sweeping the trenches with their machine- 
gun fire, and with grenades thrown out of the top. They 
would then make so many points d'appui for the British 
supporting infantry to rush forward and rally on them. 
They can then move forward to attack the second line of 

" The cost would be small. If the experiment did not 
answer, what harm would be done ? An obvious measure 
of prudence would have been to have started something like 
this two months ago. It should certainly be done now. 


" The shield is another obvious experiment which should 
have been made on a considerable scale. What does it 
matter which is the best pattern ? A large number should 
have been made of various patterns ; some to carry, 
some to wear, some to wheel. If the mud now prevents 
the working of shields or traction engines, the first frost 
would render them fully effective. With a view to this 
I ordered a month ago twenty shields on wheels, to be 
made on the best design the Naval Air Service could devise. 
These will be ready shortly, and can, if need be, be used 
for experimental purposes. 

" A third device, which should be used systematically 
and on a large scale, is smoke artificially produced. It is 
possible to make small smoke barrels which, on being lighted, 
generate a great volume of dense black smoke, which could 
be turned off or on at will. There are other matters closely 
connected with this to which I have already drawn your 
attention, but which are of so secret a character, that I do 
not put them down on paper. 

" One of the most serious dangers that we are exposed to 
is the possibility that the Germans are acting and preparing 
all these surprises, and that we may at any time find our- 
selves exposed to some entirely new form of attack, A 
committee of engineering officers and other experts ought to 
be sitting continually at the War Office to formulate schemes 
and examine suggestions, and I would repeat that it is not 
possible in most cases to have lengthy experiments before- 

" If the devices are to be ready by the time they are 
required it is indispensable that manufacture should proceed 
simultaneously with experiments. The worst that can 
happen is that a comparatively small sum of money is 

" Yours, etc." 

At about the time that the above letter was written, 
Lieutenant-Colonel Swinton again brought the matter for- 
ward and virged the desirability of action being taken, but 
as it was stated that the design and building of Captain 
Tulloch's machine would take a year to complete it appears 
that this led to the proposals being shelved for the time 


On June 1, 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel Swinton, who had 
then returned to France, submitted an official memorandum 
on the above subject to G.H.Q., which was passed to Major- 
General G. H. Fowke, Engineer-in-Chief, for his expert 
opinion. This memorandum may be summarised as 
follows : 

The main German offensive was taking place in Russia; 
consequently, in order to attain a maximum strength in the 
east, it was incumbent on the Germans to maintain a mini- 
mum one" in the west ; and, in order to meet the shortage 
of men on the Western Front, the Germans were mainly 
basing their defence on the machine-gun. 

The problem, consequently, was one of how to overcome 
the German machine-gunners. There were two solutions to 
this problem : 

(i) Sufficient artillery to blast a way through the enemy's 

(ii) The introduction of armoured machine-gun destroyers. 

As regards the second solution Lieutenant- Colonel Swin- 
ton laid down the following requirements : Speed, 4 miles 
per hour ; climbing power, 5 ft. ; spanning power, 5 ft. ; 
radius of action, 20 miles ; weight, about 8 tons ; crew, 10 
men ; armament, 2 machine-guns and one light Q.F. gun. 
Further, he suggested that these machines should be used 
in a surprise assault having first been concealed behind our 
own front line in specially constructed pits about 100 yards 
apart. In this paper it was also pointed out that these 
destroyers would be of great value in a gas attack, as they 
would enable the most scientific means of overcoming gas 
to be carried. 

The above memorandum was favourably considered by 
Sir John French, then Commander-in-Chief in France, and> 
on June 22, was submitted by him to the War Office with a 
suggestion that Lieutenant-Colonel Swinton should visit 
England and explain his scheme more fully. 

While Lieutenant-Colonel Swinton and Captain TuUoch 
were urging their proposals, a third scheme was brought 
forward by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon in connection with 


which the Secretary of State, in January 1915, ordered trials 
to be carried out with a 105 h.p. Foster-Daimler tractor 
fitted with a bridging apparatus for crossing trenches. At 
about the same time similar trials were made with a 120 h.p. 
Holt caterpillar tractor at Shoeburyness in connection with 
Captain Tulloch's scheme. Both experiments proved a 

The position, therefore, in June, so far as the Army was 
concerned, was as follows : Proposals had been put forward 
by Lieutenant-Colonel Swinton, Admiral Bacon, and Captain 
TuUoch, and submitted to the War Office. Certain trials had 
been made, the result of which, in the view of the authori- 
ties, was to emphasise the engineering and other difficulties 
to be overcome. It was only in June 1915 that Major- 
General Sir George Scott-Moncrieff, Director of Fortifications 
and Works, War Office, who, throughout the initial period, 
had shown a strong interest in the development of the idea, 
ascertained that investigations on similar lines were being 
carried out by the Admiralty ; he at once proposed that a 
" Joint Naval and Military Committee " should be formed 
for the purpose of dealing with the subject generally. This 
Committee was constituted on June 15. 

The work done by the Admiralty had so far been inde- 
pendent. In February 1915, Mr. Churchill sent to Mr. 
E. H. T. (now Sir Eustace) D'Eyncourt, Director of Naval 
Construction, a copy of the notes embodying the proposals 
set forth by Major T. G. Hetherington (18th Hussars), 
R.N,A.S., for a new type of war machine. This machine 
maybe described as a veritable Juggernaut, heavily armoured, 
highly offensive, and capable of moving across country. 

It consisted of a platform mounted on three wheels, two 
driving wheels in front and the steering wheel behind. It 
was to be equipped with three turrets each containing two 
4-in. guns and its motive power was to be derived from a 
800 h.p. Sunbeam Diesel set of engines. 

The problem of design was examined by the Air Depart- 
ment engineers and the following rough data, worked out at 
the time, are of interest : 


Armament . . .3 twin 4 in. turrets with 300 rounds per gun. 

Horse power . . 800 h.p. with fuel for 24 hours. 

Total weight . . . 300 tons. 

Armour . . . 3 in. 

Diameter of wheels 40 ft. 

Tread of main wheels . 13 ft. 4 in. 

Tread of steering wheels . 5 ft. in. 

Overall length . . 100 ft. 

Overall width . 80 ft. 

Overall height . . 46 ft. 

Clearance . 17 ft. 

Top speed on good going 8 miles per hour. 

Top speed on bad going . 4 miles per hour. 

Tlie cross-country qualities of the machine it was con- 
sidered would prove good. It could not be hogged in any 
ground passable by cavalryl it could pass over water 
obsta cle s'~Ea ^ng^^^gbod„ banks. .and from 20 ft. j^SjC^ZwidtlL 
of waterway;; it could ford waterways 15 ft. deep if the 
bottoms were good, and negotiate isolated obstacles up to 
20TtniTgjEir~ Small obstacles such as banks, ditches, bridges, 
trenches,"" wire entanglements, and ordinary woodland it 
could roll over easily. 

Mr. D'Eyncourt considered this proposal, but coming to 
the conclusion that the machine would weigh more than 
1,000 tons, it became apparent to him that its construction 
was not a practical proposition. '" 

Mr. D'Eyncourt pointed this out to Mr. Churchill and 
suggested that Major Hetherington's machine should be 
replaced by one of a smaller and less ambitious type. To 
this Mr. Churchill agreed, and to deal with this question a 
" Landships Committee " was formed consisting of the 

following gentlemen : 


Mr. D'Eyncourt. 


Major Hetherington, Colonel Dumble, Mr. Dale 

BussELL (appointed later). 


Colonel R. E. Ckompton. 

Secretary (appointed later). 

Lieutenant Stern. 


Prior to the formation of this Committee another pro- 
posal had been set on foot. About November 14, 1914, Mr. 
Diploek cff the Pedrail Company had put forward certain 
suggestions for the use of the pedrail for the transportation 
of heavy guns and war material over rough ground. After 
interviewing Lord Kitchener, who saw no utility in the sug- 
gestion, Mr. Diploek was referred to the Admiralty and 
there saw Mr. Churchill, who, taking up the matter with 
interest, suggested that a one-ton truck should be brought 
to the Horse Guards Parade for his inspection. Major 
Hetherington undertook to arrange this, and on February 12, 
1915, a demonstration of the Pedrail machine took place. 

This so impressed Mr. Churchill that he decided that a 
pedrail armoured car should be built. 

The " Landships Committee " communicated with Messrs. 
William Foster, Ltd., of Lincoln, who were already making 
heavy tractors for the Admiralty, and Mr. (now Sir William) 
Tritton, their manager, was asked to collaborate in evolving 
two designs : 

The first of the wheel tractor type. 

The second of the pedrail type — 
the latter being the alternative recommended by the 
chairman and the Pedrail Company. 

Both these designs seemed to have some promising fea- 
tures. The First Lord, on March 26, approved of an order 
being placed for twelve of the pedrail type and six of the 
wheel type. 

The design of the pedrail machine was produced by 
the Pedrail Company; its length was 38 ft., its width 
12 ft. 6 in., and height 10 ft. 6 in. The most interesting 
feature connected with this machine was that it was 
mounted on two bogies one behind the other, steering being 
rendered possible by articulating these bogies in the same 
horizontal plane, which gave an extreme turning radius of 65ft. 

After Mr. Churchill's resignation from the Admiralty the 
production of the twelve pedrail cars was abandoned in 
spite of the fact that the engines and most of the material 
had been provided. 


The design work was, however, continued under the direc- 
tion of the " Landships Committee," and, a httle later on, 
caterpillar tractors for experimental purposes were obtained 
from America. In the meantime the question of design was 
discussed with Mr. Tritton, and at the same time Lieutenant 
(now Major) W. G. Wilson, an experienced engineer, was 
brought in as consultant, and a design was evolved which 
eventually embodied the form finally adopted and adhered 
to for tanks. Thus it was through the " Landships Com- 
mittee," at a moment when the nniHtary authorities were 
inclined to regard the difficulties connected with the problem 
as likely to prove insuperable, that the landship or " tank," 
as it was later on called, was first brought into being. 

After the formation of the " Joint Naval and MiHtary 
Committee " on June 15, it was agreed, as the result of cor- 
respondence between the Admiralty and War Office, that 
the experimental work on the landship should be taken 
over as a definite mihtary service in the department of the 
Master-General of Ordnance. It was further agreed that the 
Director of Fortifications and Works should be president of 
the Committee, that the chairman and members of the exist- 
ing " Landships Committee " should continue to serve as 
long as their assistance was required, and that the late 
First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Churchill, should remain 
in touch with the design and construction of the machines 
during their experimental stage. The members nominated 
for the Committee by the War Office were Colonel Bird of 
the General Staff, Colonel Holden, A.D.T., and Major, 
Wheeler of the M.G.O.'s Department. 

Early in July, Mr. Lloyd George, Minister of Munitions, 
discussed with Mr. Balfour, now First Lord of the Admir- 
alty, the transference of the production of the machines 
from the Admiralty to the Ministry of Munitions. It was, 
however, subsequently decided that the Admiralty should 
be responsible for the production of the first trial machine, 
the Director of Naval Construction being responsible for the 
completion of the machine. This was strongly urged by Sir 
George Scott-Moncrieff. 


In July 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel- Swinton returned to 
England to take over the duties of assistant secretary to 
the " Committee of Imperial Defence." He at once took 
in hand the co-ordination of the various private and official 
efforts which were being made at this time in relation to 
the design of caterpillar tractors. Early in September he 
visited Lincoln and inspected a machine known as Little 
Willie, and on the 10th of this month wrote to Major Guest, 
Secretary of the " Experiments Committee " at G.H.Q., as 
follows : 

" The naval people are pressing on with the first sample 
caterpillar . . . they have succeeded in making an animal 
that will cross 4 ft. 6 in. and turn on its own axis hke a dog 
with a flea in its tail. ..." 

In spite of its agility this machine was rejected in favour 
of Big Willie, a model of which was being constructed under 
the direction of the " Joint Committee " on the hnes of the 
machine designed by Mr. Tritton and Lieutenant Wilson 
and the requirements of which had been outlined by Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Swinton in his memorandum of June 1. 

As regards these requirements, on the day following the 
above letter the " Experiments Committee " G.H.Q. sent the 
following tactical suggestions, arising out of Colonel Swin- 
ton's original proposal, to the secretary of the " Committee of 
Imperial Defence." They are worth quoting as they embody 
several of the characteristics which were introduced in the 
Mark I tank. 

(1) The object for which the caterpillar cruiser or armoured 
fort is required is for employment in considerable numbers 
in conjunction with or as an incident in a larger and general 
attack by infantry against an extended front. 

(2) As a general principle, it is desirable to have a large 
number of small cruisers rather than a smaller number of 
large ones. 

(3) The armour of the cruiser must be proof against con- 
centrated rifle and machine-gun fire, but not proof against 
artillery fire. The whole cruiser should be enclosed in 

Plate I 


aas. :"i2s:i_ :- ^ 




(4) The tactical object of the cruiser is attack, its arma- 
ment should include a gun with reasonable accuracy up to 
1,000 yards, and at least two Lewis guns, which can be fired 
from loopholes to flank and to rear. 

(5) The crew to consist of six men — two for the gun, one 
for each Lewis gun, and two drivers. 

(6) The caterpillar must be capable of crossing craters 
produced by the explosion of high-explosive shell, such 
craters being of 12 ft. diameter, 6 ft. deep, with sloping sides ; 
of crossing an extended width of barbed- wire entanglements ; 
and of spanning hostile trenches with perpendicular sides 
and of 4 ft. in breadth. 

(7) The cruiser should be capable of moving at a rate of 
not less than 2 J miles per hour over broken ground, and 
should have a range of action of not less than six hours 
consecutive movement. 

(8) The wheels of the cruiser should be on either the 
" Pedrail " system or the " Caterpillar " system ; whichever 
is the most suitable for crossing marshy and slippery ground. 

Most of these requirements had already been embodied in 
the wooden model of Big Willie, which, when completed, 
was inspected at Wembley on September 28. This model 
was accepted as a basis on which construction was to pro- 
ceed, it was in fact the first " mock up " of the eventual 
Mark I machine. 

Big Willie was about 8 ft, high, 26 ft. long, and 11 ft. wide 
without sponsons, and 3 ft. wider when these were added. 
His armament consisted in two 6-pounder guns and two 
machine-guns, and the crew suggested was 1 officer and 9 
other ranks. 

On the following day the " Joint Committee " assembled 
at the Admiralty and decided that the following specifica- 
tions should be worked to : weight 22 tons, speed 3j miles 
per hour, spanning power 8 ft., and climbing power 4| ft. 

On December 3, Mr. Churchill addressed a paper to 
G.H.Q., entitled " Variants of the Offensive," in which he 
accentuated the necessity of concentrating more than we 
had done on " the attack by armour," the chief purpose 


of armour being to preserve mobility. He suggested the 
combined use of the caterpillar tractor and the shield. The 
caterpillars were to breach the enemy's line and then turn 
right and left, the infantry following under cover of bullet- 
proof shields. It was further suggested that the attack 
might be carried out at night under the guidance of search- 
hghts. The rest of this paper dealt with " Attack by 
Trench Mortars, " " Attack by the Spade," and " The Attack 
on the First Line." 

On Christmas Day 1915, Sir Douglas Haig, who had 
recently taken over command of the Expeditionary Force in 
France, read this paper, and wishing to know more about the 
caterpillars mentioned. Lieutenant- Colonel H. J. EUes (later 
on G.O.C. Tank Corps) was sent to England to ascertain the 
exact position. On January 8 this officer reported in writ- 
ing to G.H.Q., as follows : 

" There are two producers of landships : 

"(a) Trench Warfare working alone. ^ 

" (6) The Admiralty Landship Committee working with 
the War Office. 

" The first have not yet made a machine, but its proposed 
size is 10 ft. high, 14 ft. 6 in. wide, and 36 ft. long ; the 
second was in process of being made " {i.e. Big Willie). 

Up to December 20, 1915, the whole cost of the experi- 

^ The machine constructed by the Trench Warfare Department was the 
double bogey car designed by the Pedrail Company, of which it will be re- 
membered twelve were originally ordered by the " Landships Committee " 
and eventually abandoned. The resuscitation of this machine arose as 
follows : 

During the summer of 1915 the Trench Warfare Department approached 
the Pedrail Company concerning the design of a flame projector with the 
capacity of 12,000 gallons of petrol. In order to carry this weapon the 
Pedrail Company suggested their original design, which, though it was not 
approved of by the " Landships Committee," was accepted by the Trench 
Warfare Department. One machine was placed on order and built at Bath 
by Messrs. Stothert and Pitt, the pedraUs being manufactured by the Metro- 
politan Carriage, Wagon and Finance Co., Ltd., and the frame by Messrs. 
William Arrol. The machine when built weighed .32 tons unloaded, was 
equipped with two 100 h.p. Astor engines, and when tested out on Salisbury 
Plain attained a speed of 15 miles an hour. Only one of these machines 
was made, as eventually the idea of using mechanically driven flame pro- 
jectors was abandoned. 


mental work had been defrayed by the Admiralty, which had 
also provided the personnel in the shape of No. 20 Squadron, 
R.N.A.S., for carrying out the work. The Admiralty had 
in fact fathered and been responsible for the landship since 
its first inception. 

On December 24 the following recommendations were 
formulated at a Conference held at the offices of the " Com- 
mittee of Imperial Defence " : 

"Supply of Machines 

" (1) That if and when the Army Council, after inspection 
of the final experimental land cruiser, decide that such 
machines shall be entrusted to a small ' Executive Supply 
Committee,' which, for secrecy, shall be called the ' Tank ' 
Supply Committee,' and shall come into existence as soon 
as the decision of the Army Council is made. 

" (2) That this Committee shall be responsible for the 
supply of caterpillar machine-gun destroyers or land cruisers 
of the approved type ; complete in every respect for action, 
including both primary and secondary armament. That it 
shall receive instructions as to supply and design direct from 
the General Staff, War Office, the necessary financial arrange- 
ments being made by the Accounting Officer, War Office. 

" (3) That, in order to enable the committee to carry out 
its work with the maximum of despatch and minimum of 
reference, it shall have full power to place orders, and to 
correspond direct with any Government department con- 
cerned. To be in a position to do this, it should have placed 
to its credit, as soon as its work commences, a sum equivalent 
to the estimated cost of fifty machines, which sum should 

' This is the first appearance of the word " tank " in the history of the 
machine. Up to December 1915, the machines now known as " tanks " 
were, in the experimental stage, called " landships " or "land cruisers," 
and also " caterpillar machine-gun destroyers." On December 24, whilst 
drafting the above report of the Conference it occurred to Colonel Swinton 
that the vise of the above names would give away a secret which it was im- 
portant to preserve. After consultation with Lieutenant-Colonel W. Daily- 
Jones, assistant secretary of the " Committee of Imperial Defence," the 
following names were] suggested by Colonel Swinton — " cistern," " reservoir," 
and " tank," all of which were applicable to the steel-hke structure of the 
machines in the earlier stages of manufacture. Because it wa s less clumsy 
and monosyllabic the name " tank "was decided on. J 


be increased later if necessary by any further amount re- 
quired to carry out the programme of construction approved 
by the General Staff. The committee should also be authorised 
to incur any necessary expenditure in connection with ex- 
perimental work, engagement of staff, travelling and other 
incidental expenses during the progress of the work. 

" (4) That as the machines are turned out and equipped 
they shall be handed over to the War Office for the purpose 
of training the personnel to man them. 

" (5) That the Committee be reconstituted with Lieu- 
tenant A. G. Stern as chairman. 

" (6) That since the officers of the R.N.A.S. will cease to 
belong to that service as soon as the ' Tank Supply Com- 
mittee ' is constituted, arrangements shall be made now for 
their payment from the same source that will bear the cost 
of constructing the land cruisers and for their appointment 
as military officers with rank suitable to the importance of 
their duties." 

The experimental machine was completed towards the 
end of 1915 and its preliminary trials gave most promising 

On January 30, 1916, Mr. D'Eyncourt, as head of the 
" Admiralty Committee," entrusted with the design and 
manufacture of the trial machine, wrote to Lord Kitchener 
and informed him that the machine was ready for his inspec- 
tion and that it fulfilled all the conditions laid down by the 
War Office, viz. — that it could carry guns, destroy machine- 
guns, break through wire entanglements, and cross the 
enemy's trenches, whilst giving protection to its own crew. 
Mr. D'Eyncourt also recommended that a number should 
be ordered immediately to this model, without serious altera- 
tion, and that whilst these were being manufactured the 
design of a more formidable machine could be developed. 

On February 2 the first official trial of the new machine 
was held at Hatfield and was witnessed by the Lords Com- 
missioners of the Admiralty, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. McKenna, 
and various representatives of the War Office and Ministry 
of Munitions. Following this trial G.H.Q., France, on 
February 8 signified their approval of the machine and 


asked that the Army might be supplied with a certain 

Arising out of the Hatfield trial it was decided to form 
a small unit of the Machine- Gun Corps, to be called the 
" Heavy Section," and Lieutenant-Colonel Swinton was 
appointed to command it with his Headquarters in London, 
a training camp being first opened at Bisley and later on 
moved to Elveden near Thetford. 

As the " Admiralty Committee," with the Director of 
Naval Construction as chairman, had finished their work 
and produced an actual machine complete in all respects 
and fulfilhng all requirements, it was then decided that the 
Ministry of Munitions should take over the production of 
the machines. On February 10 the Army Council conse- 
quently addressed a letter to the Lords Commissioners of 
the Admiralty requesting them to convey " the very warm 
thanks of the Army Council to Mr. E. H. T. D'Eyncourt, 
C.B., Director of Naval Construction, and his Committee, 
for their work in evolving a machine for the use of the Army, 
and to Mr. W. A. Tritton and Lieutenant W. G. Wilson, 
R.N.A.S., for their work in design and construction." 

Two days later, on February 12, the " Joint Committee " 
was dissolved and a new committee, closely following the Unes 
laid down at the Conference held in the offices of the " Com- 
mittee of Imperial Defence," was formed under the Ministry 
of Munitions, and known as the " Tank Supply Committee." 


Lieutenant A. G. Stern, R.N.A.S., Director of Naval Con- 
structions Committee. 


E. H. T. D'Eyncouet, Esq., C.B., Director of Naval Con- 

Lieutenant- Colonel E. D. Swinton, D.S.O., R.E., Assistant 
Secretary, Committee of Imperial Defence. 

Major G. L. Wheelee, R.A., Director of Artillery's Branch, 
War Office. 


Lieutenant W. G. Wilson, II.N.A.S., Director of Naval Con- 
structions Committee. 

Lieutenant K. P. Symes, R.N.A.S., Director of Naval Con- 
structions Committee. 

P. Dale-Bussell, Esq., Director of Naval Constructions 
Committee, Contract Department, Admiralty. 

Captain T. G. Tulloch, Ministry of Munitions. 

On February 14, 1916, Mr. D'Eyncourt wrote the follow- 
ing letter, which we quote in full, to Lieutenant- Colonel W. S. 
Churchill, commanding 6th Royal Scots FusiUers, B.E.F., 
France, whose initiative and foresight were the true parents 
of the tank as a war machine : 

" Dear Colonel Churchill, 

"It is with great pleasure that I am now able to 
report to you that the War Office have at last ordered 100 
landships to the pattern which underwent most successful 
trials recently. Sir D. Haig sent some of his staff from the 

" Lord Kitchener and Robertson also came, and members 
of the Admiralty Board. The machine was complete in 
almost every detail and fulfils all the requirements finally 
given me by the War Office. The official tests of trenches, 
etc., were nothing to it, and finally we showed them how it 
could cross a 9 ft. gap after cKmbing a 4 ft. 6 in. high per- 
pendicular parapet. Wire entanglements it goes through 
like a rhinoceros through a field of corn. It carries two 
6-pounder guns in sponsons (a naval touch), and about 300 
rounds ; also smaller machine-guns, and is proof against 
machine-gun fire. It can be conveyed by rail (the sponsons 
and guns take off, making it Ughter) and be ready for action 
very quickly. The Ring came ^ and saw it and was greatly 
struck by its performance, as was every one else ; in fact, 
they were all astonished. It is capable of great develop- 
ment, but to get a sufficient number in time, I strongly 
urge ordering immediately a good many to the pattern 
which we know all about. As you are aware, it has taken 
much time and trouble to get the thing perfect, and a prac- 

1 On February 8, 1915. 


tical machine simple to make ; we tried various types and 
did much experimental work. I am sorry it has taken so 
long, but pioneer work always takes time and no avoidable 
delay has taken place, though I begged them to order ten 
for training purposes two months ago. I have also had 
some difficulty in steering the scheme past the rocks of 
opposition and the more insidious shoals of apathy which 
are frequented by red herrings, which cross the main line of 
progress at frequent intervals. 

" The great thing now is to keep the whole matter secret 
and produce the machines altogether as a complete surprise. 
I have already put the manufacture in hand, under the aegis 
of the Minister of Munitions, who is very keen ; the Admir- 
alty is also allowing me to continue to carry on with the 
same Committee, but Stern is now Chairman. 

" I enclose photo. In appearance, it looks rather like a 
great antediluvian monster, especially when . it comes out 
of boggy ground, which it traverses easily. The wheels 
behind form a rudder for steering a curve, and also ease the 
shock over banks, etc., but are not absolutely necessary, as 
it can steer and turn in its own length with the independent 

*^^^^^- "E. H. T. D'Eyncourt." 

Between its institution in February and the following 
August the " Tank Supply Committee " underwent certain 
slight changes of organisation, the distribution of its duties 
rightly tending more and more towards centralisation. Shortly 
after its formation a " Tank Supply Department " was 
created in the Ministry of Munitions to work with the " Tank 
Supply Committee. ' ' This Supply Department was concerned 
with and was responsible for the initial output of the tanks 
which figured in the Battle of the Somme. 

On August 1, 1916, the following resolutions were come 
to by the " Tank Supply Committee," and agreed to by the 
Minister of Munitions : 

" That the ' Tank Supply Committee ' should in future 
be named the ' Advisory Committee of the Tank Supply 

" That a Sub-Committee consisting of Mr. D'Eyncourt, 
Mr. Bussell, and the Chairman, should be appointed to decide 
in questions of design and policy." 


On August 22, the Committee was dissolved on the ground 
that the organisation for Tank Supply must be assimilated 
to that of the other Departments of the Ministry of Muni- 
tions, and the outcome of this was the formation of the 
" Mechanical Warfare Supply Department," with Lieutenant 
Stern as Chairman. This department continued in existence 
from now on until the end of the war. Its powers were 
wide, embracing production, design, inspection and the 
supply of tanks, and its energy was unlimited. 

Whilst all these changes were in progress the tanks were 
being produced, and the personnel assembled and trained, 
and on August 13, 1916, the first detachment of thirteen 
tanks, being the right half of " C " Company, left Thetford 
for France, to be followed on August 22 by twelve 
tanks to complete the complement of " C " Company. On 
August 25 the right half of "D" Company entrained at 
Thetford for France, and on August 30 the remainder of 
the company followed. Tanks on arrival in France were 
transported to Yvrench, near Abbeville, where a training 
centre had been established under the command of Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Brough, who had proceeded to France on 
August 3, to make the necessary arrangements. On 
September 4, Colonel Brough, having organised the training, 
returned to England, and Lieutenant- Colonel Bradley took 
over command of the Heavy Section. 

It was now decided by G.H.Q. that tanks should take 
part in the next great attack in the Somme battle on Sep- 
tember 15, so, on the 7th, 8th, and 9th of this month, " C " 
and " D " Companies moved to the forward area, and 
established their headquarters at the Loop, a railway centre 
not far from the village of Bray-sur-Somme. 



The following very brief account of the mechanical char- 
acteristics of tanks, it is hoped, will prove sufficiently simple 
and complete to give to the non-mechanical reader some idea 
of the tank as a machine. 

The Mark I Tank (see Frontispiece) 

The first British tanl? made, and to be used, was the heavy 
machine, already described i in the previous chapter, the 
Mark I tank, the general outhne of which remained the 
standard design for the hulls of all British heavy machines 
up to the end of the war. As will be shown later, many 
mechanical improvements, making for higher efficiency and 
greater simphcity of control, were introduced from time to 
time, but the fact remains that the profile of the Mark V 
tank of 1918 was to all intents and purposes that of the 
Mark I of 1916, and surely this is a striking tribute to the 
genius of the designers who, without much previous data 
upon which to base their work, produced the parent 

It is not proposed here to enter upon the general arrange- 
ment of the Mark I tank, but reference to two important 
points in design is of interest. The first is that this machine 
was fitted with a " tail," consisting of a pair of heavy large- 
diameter wheels, mounted at the rear of the machine upon 
a carriage, which was pivoted to the hull in such a manner 
that the wheels were free to follow the varying contours of 
the ground. A number of strong springs normally kept the 
wheels bearing heavily upon the ground, whilst a hydrauhc 
ram, operated by an oil pump driven from the engine, was 
intended to enable the carriage to be rocked upon its axis, 



in order to raise the wheels well clear of the ground on 
occasions when it was necessary to " swing " the tank. 

The object of this " tail " device was to provide means of 
steering the machine and, to this end, the driver was pro- 
vided with a steering wheel which, operating a wire cable 
over a bobbin or drum, altered the path of the " tail " 
wheels, and allowed the tank to be steered, under favourable 
conditions, through a circle having a diameter of about sixty 
yards. The disadvantages of this fitting far outweighed 
any virtues it may have possessed. Countless troubles were 
experienced with the ram and its pump ; the wire steering 
cable was constantly stretching or slipping through the 
bobbin, thus affecting the " lock " of the tail wheels ; the 
driver was subjected to great physical strain in overcoming 
the tremendous resistance offered by the road wheels ; the 
whole device was very prone to be damaged by shell-fire in 
action. Against these indictments should be recorded the 
fact that the possession of a " tail " enabled the Mark I 
tank successfully to span and cross a wider trench than the 
later " tailless " machines of the same dimensions could 
negotiate, owing to the fact that as the wheels supported 
the rear of the tank over the point of balance, the risk of 
" tail dive " was considerably reduced. However, at the 
close of the operations of 1916, all tanks were shorn of their 
tails, and no subsequent models were fitted with them. 

The second point of interest regarding this early machine 
relates to its sponsons. These, on both the male and female 
machines (armed with full length 6-pounder and Vickers 
machine-guns respectively) were planted upon and bolted 
to the walls of the hull and, for entraining purposes, these 
had to be removed and carried upon special trolleys which 
could be towed behind the tanks. It will readily be seen 
that this arrangement involved a considerable amount of 
labour, and rendered the process of entraining an extremely 
lengthy one ; this led to an improved form of sponson being 
produced for the Mark IV machine. 

The chief outstanding weaknesses of the Mark I machine, 
disclosed during the first appearance in action, were : 


That the engine was provided with no silencer, conse- 
quently the noise, sparks, and even flames, which proceeded 
from the open exhaust pipes, passing through the roof of 
the tank, constituted a grave danger during the latter stages 
of an approach march. Many ingenious tank crews fitted 
to their machines crude types of silencers made out of oil 
drums, or adopted the plan of damping out the sparks by 
using wet sacks in relays, or covering the exhaust pipe with 
clay and mud. 

That the observation from the inside of the machine was 
bad, and efficient fire control was, therefore, impossible. 

That the means provided for entering and leaving the 
tank were unsatisfactory, and, in the case of the female 
machine, speedy evacuation in the event of fire was difficult. 

That the whole of the petrol supply was carried inside 
the machine, and in a vulnerable position' — a circumstance 
which added to the risk of fire in the event of a hit in the 
petrol tank by armour-piercing bullet or shell. Further- 
more, gravity was the only means for transferring petrol 
from the main petrol tanks in the front of the machine to 
the carburetter, and, therefore, it frequently happened 
that when a tank " ditched " nose downwards, the petrol 
supply was cut off, and consequently the dangerous 
practice of " hand-feeding " had to be resorted to. 

The Mark II and Mark III Tanks 
These machines were produced in small numbers, and 
their difference from Mark I lay in various minor improve- 
ments, none of a radical nature. 

The Mark IV Tank (Plate I— see p. 26) 
In 1917 this tank became the standard fighting machine 
of the Tank Corps, and it was used in battle throughout this 
year and the following. As already stated, in outline it 
' corresponded so closely with the Mark I machine that a study 
here of the main features of this tank will serve generally 
as an illustration of what had taken place in tank develop- 
ment up to this date. 


The machine was 26 ft. 5 in. long over all, whilst the width 
of the female over its sponsons was 10 ft. 6 in., and of the 
male, 13 ft. 6 in. The height of the machine was 8 ft. 2 in., 
and its weight, equipped, was 28 tons. The armament 
consisted, in the case of the male, of two 6-pounder guns 
and four machine-guns, and in that of the female of six 
machine-guns ; it was fitted with a 105 h.p. Daimler 6-cylinder 
sleeve-valve engine which, at a later date, was replaced in a 
hmited number by one of 125 h.p. This increased power 
was obtained by the use of aluminium pistons, twin car- 
buretters, and by speeding up the engine. 

Generally speaking, these engines gave very little trouble, 
although somewhat under-powered for the work they had 
to perform. They were, it may be added, particularly 
suitable from the maintenance point of view, owing to their 
" fool-proof " nature, due chiefly to the absence of the usual 
poppet-valve gear, with its attendant risk of maladjustment. 
Power was transmitted from the engine flywheel, through 
a cone-type clutch and a flexible coupling, to a two-speed 
and reverse gear-box, known as the primary gear, this being 
under the direct control of the driver, who could thus obtain 
first and second speeds, or reverse, without other assistance. 

The tail-shaft from the gear-box carried a worm which 
drove the crown wheel of a large reduction gear, this gear 
also serving as a differential to enable the track driving 
wheels to rotate at different speeds, as when steering the 
tank on its track brakes. A device was provided, under 
the driver's control, for locking the differential when it was 
desired to steer a dead-ahead course, or when negotiating 
a trench or other obstacle. With the differential locked, 
the gear became, so to speak, " sohd " and obviated the risk 
of one of the tracks slipping in bad ground, a condition very 
apt to cause a tank to slip sideways into a trench and become 

Some trouble was caused through breakages of this lock- 
ing muff in the earher days, but latterly the arrangement was 
considerably improved and strengthened. 

The gear-box tail-shaft terminated in a brake drum, the 


band of which was operated by means of a pedal at the 
driver's foot. It may be of interest to point out here that 
the whole of the items so far referred to, i.e. engine, gear-box, 
and differential, formed the standard power unit of the 
pre-war Foster-Daimler tractor, and thus provided a known 
quantity around which the rest of the detail was designed. 
This greatly facilitated production. 

On either side of the differential case projected cross- 
shafts, the outer ends of which were supported in bearings 
mounted upon the outside wall of the tank, and, between 
the inner and outer walls of the hull, two sHding pinions 
were carried on a splined portion of the cross-shaft, one pair 
of pinions on each of the right and left hand sides of the 

In describing the remainder of the transmission, it will 
suffice to deal only with one side of the machine, the detail 
on either side being identical. 

The shding pinions, already alluded to, were operated by 
means of short levers by two gearsmen, whose sole duty it 
was to assist the driver, who signalled to them his require- 
ments from his seat in the front of the tank, the two gearsmen 
being accommodated towards the rear of the machine on 
seats placed over the primary gear-box. The sliding pinions 
were of two sizes, known as the high-speed and low-speed 
pinions, and immediately in their rear was mounted another 
pinion assembly, also carrjang two gear-wheels of different 
dimensions, with which the shding wheels could be engaged 
at will — ^in other words, on each side of the tank there 
existed what were known as secondary gear-boxes, each 
offering a choice of two speeds. 

Thus it will be seen that the whole arrangement provided 
a range of four speeds. Assuming the secondary gears to 
be at " low," the driver had the option of using either first or 
second speed by manipulating the control to the primary 
gear-box, whilst in order to obtain third or fourth (top) 
speed it was necessary for him to signal the gearsmen to alter 
their gears to " high," and to assist them in the process by 
a great deal of intelligent clutch work. It need hardly be 


pointed out that this arrangement was exceedingly clumsy, 
and often involved much loss of time and temper. It might 
also be mentioned here that the reverse gear, already alluded 
to, was considerably higher than the lowest forward speed, 
so that there was little possibihty of driving backwards, 
clear of any obstruction which might have ditched the tank. 

Hand-operated brakes, under the control of the tank 
commander in the front of the tank, alongside the driver, 
were incorporated with the secondary gear-box. These 
brakes, by checking one or other track, enabled the tank to 
be steered in some measure with the differential unlocked, 
whilst, by locking the differential and placing, say, the right- 
hand secondary gear in " neutral," the machine could be 
swung to the right, practically upon its own axis, by apply- 
ing the right-hand brake. To swing to the left, the right- 
hand secondary gear was engaged, the left-hand being placed 
in " neutral," the differential locked and the left-hand brake 

From the secondary gear-box a Coventry chain trans- 
mitted the power to an assembly, at the rear of the hull, 
which carried, on either side of the chain sprocket, two 
heavy pinion wheels, in constant mesh with the final sprocket 
wheels, which in turn, engaging with the hnks of the track 
plates, drove the hull along the track. 

Each track was composed, normally, of ninety plates or 
road shoes, the separate plates being coupled together by 
means of links (two per plate) and link pins, the links them- 
selves being recessed so as to engage with the driving wheels 
as shown above. 

The weight of the machine was carried upon the track 
by means of rollers, whilst the track was supported on the 
top of the hull by skids or rails. 

Adjustment of track was effected by the movement of 
an "idler" wheel, which guided the track over the nose of 
the hull. 

Refinements to the transmission were introduced in the 
shape of guards to protect the driving chains from mud, 
and also means were provided to lubricate the secondary 


gear-wheels with oil. It is recalled that, prior to the intro- 
duction of the chain-guard, the inside deck of the tanks was 
often covered with a layer of liquid mud, several inches 
deep, carried in by the chains, and delivered through the 
secondary gears. 

Petrol was suppHed to the engine in the earUer days of 
the Mark IV machine by a pressure-fed system which gave 
a great deal of trouble, and, being also considered dangerous, 
was finally discarded in favour of the Autovac system, 
which sucked the fuel from the main supply in a tank outside 
of the machine and deUvered it to the carburetter by gravity. 
Coohng of the engine was primarily effected by a copper 
envelope radiator, which gave some trouble and was finally 
superseded by a tubular type. 

An efficient silencer, with a long exhaust pipe carried 
right to the rear of the machine, considerably reduced engine 
noise and rendered the approach march a far less hazardous 
undertaking than was the case with the earlier models. 

Sponsons were designed to collapse into the interior of 
the machine when necessary, and the cumbersome practice 
of detaching them from the hull came to an end. Short 
6-pounder guns were introduced to render this change 

Detachable " spuds," to provide a grip for the tracks on 
difficult soil, were first introduced for this machine, as also 
was a highly efficient unditching gear. The latter consisted 
of a beam, rather longer than the overall width of the tank 
hull, which was fastened by clips and chains to each track, 
and, in passing round under the machine, actually took a 
purchase from the obstruction under the belly of the tank. 
Detail improvements to give easier entrance and more 
rapid egress in case of emergency, as well as better and safer 
vision and fixe control, were also introduced. 

The Mark V Tank (Plate V— see p. 204) 

With the introduction of the Mark V tank, which repre- 
sents the standard British heavy tank of to-day, great 
progress was made in all-round speed, ease of manoeuvre, 


radius of action, simplicity of control and feasibility of 

The dimensions and weight of this tank were approxi- 
mately the same as those of the Mark IV, whilst the design 
of the hull still closely followed the lines of the original 
Mark I. Equipped with the 150 h.p. Ricardo 6-cylinder 
poppet-valved engine, specially designed for tank work, 
the advent of the Mark V machine called for the introduction 
of new courses of instruction for the personnel of the Corps, 
very few of either officers or other ranks having, at this 
time, any experience of the care and adjustment of the valve 

This Ricardo engine, of somewhat unorthodox design, 
was highly efficient and, with proper care and attention, gave 
very little trouble. From the engine, power was trans- 
mitted through a plate clutch in the flywheel to a four- 
speed gear-box, immediately in rear of which was the reverse 
gear, providing " reverse " on all speeds. The cross-shaft, 
incorporated with the reverse gear, carried at either end 
(in the same relative position as the secondary gears, explained 
in dealing with the Mark IV machine) an epicyclic gear. 
It is not within the scope of this chapter to describe this 
gear in detail, but it may be regarded as serving the double 
purpose of a reduction gear and clutch, combined in one 

From these epicyclic gears, the transmission of the drive 
through to the tracks followed the principle of the Mark IV 
machine, except that there was no second-line pinion assembly 
as in the secondary gear of the earlier tank, the Coventry 
chain on the Mark V passing direct from the single-unit 
epicyclic gear to the pinion assembly operating the track 
driving wheels. 

All the items enumerated above were under tiie direct 
control of the driver, who was therefore enabled to perform, 
single-handed, all the operations which previously required 
the work of four men. Hand levers controlled the epicychc 
gears, primary gear-box, and reverse gear, whilst the clutch 
and gear were foot-operated. 


To steer the tank at any speed, the driver had merely 
to raise the epicyelic gear lever on the side on which he wished 
to turn. This had the effect of interrupting the drive to 
that track, so that, being driven by the remaining track, 
the machine would turn upon the " idle " side. 

Where a sharp " swing " was necessary, application of the 
foot brake would automatically check the " idle " track, 
this being allowed for by means of a single compensating link 
motion with which the controls were interconnected. 

The engine was petrol-fed by the autovac system, as fitted 
to the later Mark IV machines. Cooling of the engine was 
effected by means of a tubular type radiator, the water 
therein being itself cooled by air drawn from outside the 
tank, through louvres in the left-hand wall of the hull, and 
finally expelled through similar louvres in the right-hand wall. 

Further, the engine was completely enclosed in a sheet- 
iron casing, from which the hot foul air was exhausted through 
the roof of the tank by means of a Keith fan. 

The Mark V armament corresponded with that of the 
Mark IV, whilst the sponsons were of similar design to those 
fitted to the latter type. 

The absence of the large differential gear, as fitted on the 
earlier models, gave accommodation for a machine-gun in 
the rear wall of the tank, and also allowed for large entrance 
doors in the back portion of the roof. 

A greatly improved type of rear cab was fitted, and thus 
provided excellent all-round vision, and also rendered 
possible the fitting of the unditching beam to the tracks 
from the inside of the machine. This was accomphshed 
through the side flaps of the rear cab of the Mark V, whereas 
on previous models it had been necessary for members of 
the crew to expose themselves to hostile fire, in the event 
of the tank becoming ditched in action, as the beam could 
only be attached and detached from outside. 

The Mark V One Star Tank (Plate VII— see p. 220) 
The' Mark V star machine was 6 ft. longer than the Mark V, 
and the weight of the male, equipped, was approximately 















c- ( 







JH 5„ 


■'3 Win 

s as 
" 2S 

n ^ K 

O O.J3 p, p, rt'* 

«■* " 9 
CO in 

2 So 



o u 

ft ft ^"^ 

B S |l 

9 >? =§ 

Tf (N K 

3 ort ■§''3 2 1=5^ 
53 ^f- -^"o^ S2 

,a J3 >?» 

ft (i "^^ 

o in og 

•* M M 

1, Ss Jo g sx ■s^ag 

00 *j (jH . ft_jj3 d 

<o m So 0= 0° ,;,c+Js, 


■a .a o^ 

ft ft °=<N 

B B 5I 

eo o 0*3 

■" "> « I i^- la 

CM ^l> 



_fl ^ mm 
ft ft f't 

"^ 9 ,25 
rt iM 33 

• * • » S «wi ^w'a 
CO m o> m a offi O '2 

iM « CO . r "30 

o 5. 

„, «l CO * 
CO C^ r^ 00 

« r.f- m^^ 

ft V 

J3 a r», 

ft ft <«'-' 

B S 

en c<i S ' 


en EA 

9 og 

cq e£) CO 
CO c^l rH 

« 00 °^ ®§ 

3^3 » 



■a * c^M 

(i a, co'-i 

a a p 

>> 9 OB 


■ C6 

- H 

H a 

tt til 

§ s 



X ^ U 






















^ ^ ^ 

^ 1/1 (9 




Si I 


33 tons. There was no change in the nature of the arma- 
ment, or in the number of the crew, which consisted of eight 
all told. In addition to the crew, the machine was capable 
of carrying twenty to twenty-five other troops and would 
cross a 14 ft. trench, as against 10 ft. for the Mark V. 

The general mechanical arrangement of this tank corre- 
sponded with that of the Mark V, the same engine and trans- 
mission system being adopted, with the addition of a Cardan 
shaft between the flywheel and gear-box, which was ren- 
dered necessary by the additional length of the machine. 

The Mark V star was relatively slow to manoeuvre, owing 
chiefly to the amount of track-bearing surface on the ground. 

The Medium Mark A or " Whippet " Tank 
(Plate III— see p. 176) 

The Medium A tank, known also as the " Chaser " and 
" Whippet," was the British standard hght-type machine, 
and it differed altogether from its heavier relatives. Its 
weight, equipped, was about 14 tons, whilst it was 20 ft. 
long, 9 ft. high, and 8 ft. 7 in. wide, carrying a crew of three. 
It could attain a maximum speed of about 8'3 m.p.h., and 
could span a trench approximately 7 ft. in width. 

On this machine the tracks were not carried " overhead " 
as in the case of the heavy tanks, but the two trackways 
existed as such only, and formed the road members of what 
may be described as the chassis upon which the engine- 
room and fighting cab were mounted. There were no 
sponsons, and the tank was driven and fought from the cab 
at the rear of the machine, provision being allowed for an 
armament of three machine-guns. 

Each machine was fitted with two 45 h.p. 4-cyUnder 
Tyler engines with an autovac petrol feed, and cooled by 
means of a tubular radiator provided with two fans driven 
by chains from each crankshaft. 

The power of each engine was transmitted through separate 
cone clutches, leather flexible coupMngs, and four-speed 
and reverse gear-boxes, to a casing, at the rear of the machine, 
containing two worm gears. 


The two worm-wheel shafts of these gears were in line, 
with their inner ends nearly touching, and each carrying 
the keyed-on half of a jawed couphng, one of which could 
be slid along at will, to engage with the other, thus locking 
the two shafts together. 

One of the shafts carried a friction- clutch arrangement, 
designed to limit the power transmitted from one shaft to 
the other to about 12 h.p. 

It will be seen, therefore, that either worm-wheel shaft 
could be driven independently by its own engine, or the 
two could be locked together so as to rotate at the same 
speed, driving the tank straight ahead, provided that there 
was not more than 12 h.p. difference between the developed 
powers of the engines. Extensions of each worm shaft 
carried a band brake, as well as a fan for forcing air into the 
cab of the machine. 

Returning to the details of the transmission system, 
each cross-shaft from the worm case terminated in a " driving 
chain pinion shaft," the outer ends of which were supported 
by ball bearings mounted upon the sides of the track frames. 
The chain pinion carried by this shaft transmitted the drive, 
through a roller chain, to the final track-driving wheels, 
which, engaging with the slots in the track links, drove 
the tank along the track. Each track consisted normally 
of sixty-seven plates or shoes, and rollers served to support 
the weight of the tank upon the track, as well as to carry 
the track over the top of the trackway. Adjustment of the 
track was effected by movement of the front " idler " wheel 
as in the case of the heavier nnachines. 

The Whippet tank called for particular skill in driving, and 
a great deal of practice was usually necessary to produce a 
really efficient driver. " Stalhng " of one or both engines 
was a common occurrence during the earlier stages of train- 
ing. Steering was effected by varying the speed of either 
engine, and the radius of movement was proportional to 
the difference in the speed of the two engines, this difference 
being controlled by means of a steering wheel connected to 
the two carburetter throttles, movement of the wheel pro- 


ducing acceleration of one engine and deceleration of the 
other simultaneously. 

The Gun-carrying Tank (Plate VII — see p. 220) 

Originally designed for carrying a 60-pounder gun or 6-in. 
howitzer and ammunition into action, these machines during 
1918 were chiefly used for the transport of supplies across 
country. The engine, a 6-cylinder 105 h.p. Daimler, was 
placed right at the rear of the machine, and the general 
lay-out of the transmission corresponded with that of the 
Mark IV modified to suit the engine, position, the primary 
and secondary gears, etc., being mounted forward of the 
engine in the case of this G.C. tank. The final drive to the 
track was at the rear, and exactly followed the Mark IV 
practice, whilst the track itself was carried on track frames, 
in this respect somewhat resembhng the Medium A machine. 

Four men were required to control the G.C. tank, the 
driver and brakesman being separately housed in two small 
independent cabs mounted one over each track towards 
the front of the machine, whilst the secondary gearsmen 
travelled in the body of the machine. 

A system of signalling by signs from driver to other members 
of the crew was adopted. 

Situated between the inner walls of the hull at the front 
of the tank was a " skid " or platform which could be 
drawn out, and its front lowered to the ground, forming an 
inchned runway up which the gun was hauled, by means 
of a winding gear operated from the engine, to its travelUng 
position on the machine. 

Drums for carrying ammunition for the guns were sup- 
ported on platforms over the tracks immediately in rear 
of the two control cabs. 

The first G.C. tanks were fitted with " tails," similar to 
those on the Mark I machines, but these were later on dis- 

The above includes the brief mechanical summary of the 
various types of British tanks used during the Great War, 


and though, undoubtedly, the future will bring with it many 
improvements and may radically change the whole form of 
the present-day tank, it is doubted if ever, in the whole 
history of mechanics — let alone warfare, a novel machine 
has been produced which has proved so efficient on first use 
and required in the long run of two years of war so few 



The Mark I tank was the direct produce of the experimental 
machine wliich was officially tested on February 2, 1916. 
It may be defined as " a mechanically-propelled cross- 
country armoured battery," the maximum thickness of its 
armour being 12 mm.^ 

The main tactical characteristics of all tanks may be 
placed under the headings of — mobility, security, and offen- 
sive power, and as regards the Mark I machine the follow- 
ing is a general description of these characteristics : 

(i) Mobilityi — The Mark I tank could move over flat 
ground at 100 to 120 yards a minute, over ground inter- 
sected by trenches at 30 to 40 yards a minute, and at night 
time at 15 yards a minute. It could cross all forms of wire 
entanglements, crushing down two paths through them which 
were passable by two single files of infantry. It could span 
a trench 11 ft. 6 in. wide, surmount an obstacle 5 ft. high, 
and climb a slope of 1 over 2. 

(ii) Security. — The Mark I tank was proof against ordinary 
bullets, shrapnel, and most shell-splinters. 

(iii) Offensive Power. — ^Mark I tanks were divided into 
two categories : male and female. The former carried an 
armament of two 6-pou,nde r_^uns and four Hotchkiss 
machine-guns, the latteF'of'^ve Vickers and one Hotchkiss 
machine-guns. The normal amount of ammunition carried 
was for males 20 rounds and 10,000 rounds S.A.A., and for 
females 12,000 rounds S.A.A. 

The chief limltafioirs'oftHe tank are connected with its 
mobility. For the Mark I type these limitations were as 
follows : 

Its circuit in action was about 12 miles, and the fighting 
1 The sponsons of the Mark I were only 10 nim..aimour and not proof 
against A.P. bullets. 


endurance of its crew 8 to 12 hours. It was not suited for 
traversing swamps, thick woods, streams with marshy banks, 
or deep sunken roads. It could be expected to cross shelled 
dry ground at a slow pace, but should this ground become 
sodden with rain it would find difficulty in doing so, and 
might frequently become ditched. 

A tactical paper on the employment of this machine was 
put forward official^ in February 1916 by Colonel Swinton, 
entitled " Notes on the Employment of ' Tanks,' " This 
document is of special interest as it is the first tactical note 
published on the use of tanks. The following are certain 
extracts taken from it : 

f- " The use made by the Germans of machine-guns and wire 
entanglements — a combination which has such power to 
check the advance of infantry — has in reply brought about 
the evolution of the ' caterpillar bullet-proof chmbing motor, 
or tank,' a machine designed for the express purpose of 
assisting attacking infantry by crossing the defences, breaking 
through the obstacles, and of disposing of the machine-guns. 
It is primarily a machine-gun destroyer, which can be em- 
ployed as an auxiliary to an infantry assault. ..." 

" Hostile machine-guns which it is impossible to crush 
{i.e. by running over them) will be attacked by gunfire. It 
is specially for the purpose of deahng with these weapons 
ensconced in houses, cellars, amongst ruins, in haystacks, or 
in other concealed positions behind the enemy's front fine, 
where they may not be knocked out by our artillery, and 
whence they can stop our infantry advances, that the tanks 
carry guns. Being covered with bullet-proof protection, 
and therefore to a great extent immune from the hostile 
•j machine-guns, they can approach sufficiently close to locate 
'l^the latter, and pour in shell at- jxoint^blank ^unge,^. . ." 

" As ... it is proposed that the taliks Itiouid accompany 
the infantry," they should carry forward the following sig- 
nalling apparatus, " small wireless sets ... an apparatus 
for laying a field telephone cable either on the surface of 
the ground or possibly buried 12 in. deep ..." also visual 
signalliiig/apparatus and smoke rockets. 

,'* The tanks will be destroyed by a direct hit of any type 
ot howitzer shell.' They will probably be put out of action 


by all except the most glancing hits of high-explosive shell 
fired by field-guns. . . . They may also be blown up by 
<Tnines_£ijc_l@jidrmines. ..." 

" Since the cKance of success of an attack by tanks lies 
almost entirely in its novelty, and in the element of surprise, 
it is obvious that no repetition of it will have the same 
opportunity of succeeding as the first tmexpected effort. It 
follows, therefore, that these machines should not be used in 
driblets (for instance, as they may be produced), but that the 
fact of their existence should be kept as secret as possible 
until the whole are ready to be launched, together with the 
infantry assault, in one great combined operation. . . ." 

" The sector of front where the machines can best operate 
should be carefully chosen to comply with their .limitations, 
i.e. their inabihty to cross canals, rivers, deep railway cuttings 
with steep sides, woods and orchards. . . ." 

Tanks should remain at the position of assembly " suffi- 
ciently long for the crews to reconnoitre, ease and mark out 
the routes up to the points where they will actually cross 
the front defences, and to learn all that can be discovered 
of the German front-line trenches, and the defence zone 
behind it over which they have to advance. ..." 

" The tanks, it is thought, should move forward together, 
say, by rocket signal, sweeping the enemy's first-line parapet 
with machine-gun fire ; and after they have proceeded some 
three-quarters of the way across ' No Man's Land,' and have 
succeeded in attracting to themselves the fire of the German 
infantry and machine-guns in the front line, the assaulting 
infantry should charge forward so as to reach the German 
defences soon after the tanks have climbed the parapet 
and begim to enfilade the trenches. ..." 

"... unless expectations are falsified, if the machines 
accompany the assaulting infantry, moving with it, or just 
ahead of it . . . both will be across the enemy's front fine 
and on their way to the second before the curtain of 
fire descends, and the latter will be behind them. It is 
hoped similarly that, owing to the prevention of the usual 
checks to the advance, which the action of the tanks will 
ensure, by the time the German gunners shorten the range 
in. order to provide a second curtain in front of their 
second line, our assault will have already swept beyond 
the line. 

" The above anticipations are admittedly sanguine ; but 


if the tanks are employed and are successful, it is thought 
that they will enable the assault to maintain most of its 
starting momentum, and break through the German 'position 
quickly,'''' a condition which up to the present it has not been 
possible to attain, " even after immense sacrifice of hfe." . . . 
" Not only, however, does it seem that the tanks will confer 
the power to force successive comparatively imbattered 
defensive lines, but . . . the more speedy and uninterrupted 
their advance, the greater the chance of their surviving 
sufficiently long to do this. It is possible, therefore, that 
an effort to break right through the enemy's defensive 
zone in one day may now be contemplated as a feasible 
proposition. . . . This being the case, it appears that when 
the tanks are used the contingency of such an extended botuid 
forward being made should be most carefully legislated for 
in the way of preparation to send forward reinforcements, . 
gmis, ammunition, and supplies. ..." 

" The necessity for the co-ordination of all arms to work 
together in the offensive generally requires no remarks 
here, but the desirability of the specially careful considera- 
tion of the subject in the case of an operation by tanks, 
requires some emphasis, since the orchestration of the attack 
will be complicated by the introduction of a new instrument 
and one which somewhat alters the chain of interdependence 
of all. A recapitulation of this chain will make the matter 
clear. The tanks cannot win battles by themselves. They 
are purely auxiMary to the infantry, and are intended to 
sweep away the obstructions which have hitherto stopped 
the advance of our infantry beyond the German first line, 
and cannot with certainty be disposed of by shell fire. It 
follows, therefore, that the progress of the attack, which 
depends on the advance of the infantry, depends on the 
activity and preservation in action of the tanks. 

" The weapons by which the tanks are most likely to be 
put out of action are the enemy guns. The only means by 
which we can at the earlier stages of an attack reduce the 
activity of the enemy's gims, are by our own artillery fire 
or by dropping bombs on them from the air. 

" It follows, therefore, that in order to help our infantry 
in any operation in which tanks take part . . . the principal 
object of our guns should not be to endeavour to damage 
the German machine-guns, earthworks, and wire, behind 
the enemy's first line, a task they cannot with certainty 


carry out, and which the tanks are specially designed to 
perform. It should be to endeavour to help the infantry 
by helping the tanks, i.e. by concentrating as heavy a counter- 
fire as possible on the enemy's main artillery position, and 
on any field or other light guns whose situation behind the 
first line is known. . . ." 

" In order to increase the confusion which it is hoped will 
be caused amongst the enemy by an attack by tanks, and 
to assist in conceahng the exact nature and the progress 
of these machines, it would be of advantage if their advance 
were heralded by clouds of smoke. ..." 

The above quotations need no comment, and if comment 
is to be sought for, the most suitable places to seek it are 
the battles in which tanks eventually took part, for in these, 
and the great number of lesser actions, some eighty-five 
in all, it will be found that not only were Colonel Swinton's 
speculations, made seven months before the first tank crossed 
" No Man's Land," not mere " fiights of imagination," but 
" solid facts," the value of which these battles have proved 
again and again. 



On July 1, 1916, the battle of the Somme opened with a 
successful advance on the British right between Maricourt 
and Ovillers, and a check on the British left between Ovillers 
and Gommecourt. From that day on to the commence- 
ment of the battle of the Ancre, in November, no further 
attempt was made to push forward the British left, all avail- 
able troops being required to maintain the forward move- 
ment of the right flank. 

The ground which separates the rivers Somme and Ancre 
is split up into valleys by pronounced ridges, most of which 
form natural lines of defence for an enemy and could, in 
1916, only be stormed after having been subjected to a 
heavy artillery bombardment. The ground had conse- 
quently become severely " crumped " in places ; but as the 
weather, up to September 15, had been fine and dry, it 
offered no insuperable difficulty to the movement of the 
tanks, which were allotted to the Fourth and Reserve Armies 
as follows : 

Fourth Army, XlVth Corps . " C " Company (less 1 Section) 
„ ,> XVth „ . " D " Company (less 1 Section) 

,, ,, Ilird „ . 1 Section " D " Company . 

Reserve Army . . .1 Section " C " Company , 

In G.H.Q. Reserve (all mechanically imfit) 

On September 11 operation orders were received from the 
Fourth Army, and on the 13th a conference was held, at 
which Lieutenant- Colonel Bradley attended, to discuss the 
forthcoming attack. During the 14th " A " Company 
arrived at Yvrench, and at 4.30 p.m. on that day the head- 
quarters of " C " Company moved to the Briquetterie near 


. 17 tanks 

. 17 


. - 8 


. 7 


. 10 


SEPTEMBER 15, 1916 65 

Trones Wood, and the headquarters of " D " Company to 
Green Dump. 

The frontage of the Fourth Army attack extended between 
the Combles ravine and Martinpuich, the intention being 
to break through the enemy's defensive system and occupy 
Morval, Les Bceufs, Gueudecourt, and Flers. Simultane- 
ously with this attack the Reserve Army was to attack on 
the left of the Ilird Corps, and the French on the right 
of the XlVth Corps. The attack was to be pushed with 
the utmost vigour, and was to be followed by the advance 
of the Cavalry Corps, which was to seize the high ground 
about Rocquigny-Villers au Flos-Riencourt-lez-Bapaume. 

The general idea governing tank movements, on this 
the first occasion of their use, was that they should be 
employed in sub-sections of two or three machines against 
" strong points." Considerable apprehension existed as to 
the likeKhood on the one hand of tanks, if they started too 
soon, drawing prematurely the enemy's fire, and on the 
other of their reaching their objective too late to be an 
assistance to the infantry. It was finally decided that they 
should start in sufficient time to reach the first objective 
five minutes before the infantry got there, and thus risk 
drawing hostile fire. Our own artillery barrages, stationary 
and creeping, were to be brought down at zero, leaving 
lanes free from fire through which the tanks were to advance. 
The tanks moved up from their positions of assembly to 
their starting-points during the night of September 14-15. 
Of the forty- nine machines allotted for the attack, thirty- two 
reached their starting-points in time for the battle, the 
remainder failing to arrive through becoming ditched on the 
way, or breaking down through mechanical trouble. 

The tanks working with the Reserve Army and the Ilird 
and XlVth Corps were not a great success ; the operations 
of those with the XVth Corps were as follows : 

The tanks allotted to this Corps assembled on the night 
of September 13-14 at the Green Dump, where the machines 
were tuned up for battle, and where stores of petrol and oil 
had been collected. On the night of the 14-15th the tanks 


moved up to their starting-points round Delville Wood. 
Every tank was given the route it had to follow, and the 
time it was to leave the starting-point; this was in most 
cases about half an hour before zero (dawn), and was intended 
to be arranged so that the tanks should reach the German 
trenches ^ few minutes ahead of our own infantry. Briefly, 
the orders were for eight tanks to advance on the west of 
Flers, and six on the east of that village, their destination 
being Gueudecourt and the sunken road to the west of it. 
The tanks were to attack all strong points on their routes, 
and to assist the infantry whenever held up. 

Of the seventeen tanks which moved off, twelve reached 
their starting-points ; eleven of these crossed the German 
trenches and did useful work. One in particular gave great 
assistance where the attacking infantry were held up in 
front of the Flers line by wire and machine-gun fire ; the 
tank commander placed his machine astride the trench 
and enfiladed it ; the tank then travelled along behind 
the trench, and 300 Germans surrendered and were taken 
prisoners. Another tank entered Gueudecourt, attacked a 
German battery and destroyed one 77 mm. field-gun with 
its 6-pounders ; the tank was then hit by a shell and caught 
fire ; only two of its crew got back to our hues. 

This attack on September 15, from the point of view of 
tank operations, was not a great success. Of the forty-nine 
tanks employed, only thirty-two reached their starting- 
points ; nine pushed ahead of the infantry and caused con- 
siderable loss to the enemy, and nine others, though they 
never caught^up with the infantry, did good work in clearing 
up points where the enemy was still holding out. Of the 
remaining fourteen, nine broke down from mechanical 
trouble, and five became ditched. 

The casualties amongst the tank personnel were insignifi- 
cant. Of the machines ten were hit in action and temporarily 
rendered useless, and seven were slightly damaged, but not 
sufficiently so as to prevent them returning in safety. 

The next occasion upon which tanks were used was during 
the attacks of September 25 and 26, five being allotted to 


the Fourth Army, and eight to the Reserve Army. Of these 
thirteen tanks nine stuck in shell-holes, two worked their 
way into Thiepval, and after rendering assistance to the 
infantry met a similar fate, and one, working with the 
XVth Corps, carried out the first " star " turn in the history 
of tank tactics, which in the report of the XVth Corps is 
described as follows : 

" On September 25, the 64th Brigade, 2Ist Division, 
attack on Gird trench was hung up and unable to make 
any progress. A footing had been obtained in Gird trench 
at N.32 d.9.1,1 and our troops held the trench from N.26 c.4.5, 
northwards. Between these two points there remained 
approximately 1,500 yards of trench, very strongly held by 
Germans, well wired, the wire not having been cut. Arrange- 
ments were made for a tank (female) to move up from here 
for an attack next morning. The tank arrived at 6.30 a.m. 
followed by bombers. It started moving south-eastwards 
along the Gird trench, firing its machine-guns. As the 
trench gradually fell into our hands, strong points were made 
in it by two companies of infantry, which were following 
in the rear for that purpose. No difficulty was experienced. 
The enemy surrendered freely as the tank moved down the 
trench. They were unable to escape owing to our holding 
the trench at the southern end at N.32 d.9.1. By 8.30 a.m. 
the whole length of the trench had been cleared, and the 
15th Durham Light Infantry moved over the open and 
took over the captured trench. The infantry then advanced 
to their final objective, when the tank rendered very valuable 
assistance. The tank finally ran short of petrol south-east 
of Gueudecourt. In the capture of the Gird trench, eight 
officers and 362 other ranks were made prisoners, and a great 
many Germans were killed. Our casualties only amounted 
to five. Nearly 1,500 yards of trench were captured in less 
than an hour. What would have proved a very difficult 
operation, involving probably heavy losses, was taken with 
greatest ease entirely owing to the assistance rendered by 
the tank." 

The last occasion upon which tanks were used during 
1916 was on November 13 and 14, in the battle of the Ancre, 
1 Map reference. 


which completed the Somme operations for the year. Heavy 
rain had fallen, and the difficult ground along the river Ancre 
had been converted into a morass of mud. For this attack 
complete tank preparations were made, reconnaissances 
were carried out, and a tankodrome (Tank Park) was estab- 
lished at Acheux. 

On account of the bad weather the original plan, namely, 
to use twenty tanks, was abandoned, and a much more 
modest scheme was evolved. Three tanks were to operate 
with the 39th Division opposite St. Kerre Divion. On 
November 13 these moved forward, and eventually all three 
stuck in the mud. North of the river Ancre two tanks were 
sent against Beaumont Hamel ; these also became ditched. 
Next morning three more tanks were sent out to clear up a 
strong point just south of the last-named village. One of 
these was hit by a shell, and the remaining two, on reaching 
the German front line, became ditched. These two tanks 
were, however, able to bring their 6-pounders and machine- 
guns to bear on the strong point, and their fire proved so 
effective that after a short time the Germans holding it 
surrendered, and 400 prisoners were rounded up by the 
tank crews — 2 officers and 14 other ranks. 

From the point of view of the general observer it might 
be said that, except for one or two small and brilliant 
operations, the tank during the battle of the Somme had 
not proved its value. The general observer, however, is 
seldom the best judge, and when the actual conditions 
imder which tanks were used, during the autumn of 1916, 
are weighed and the lessons sorted, history's verdict, it is 
thought, will be, that they had so far proved their value 
that September 15, 1916, will in future be noted not so 
much for the successes gained on that day, but as the birth- 
day of a new epoch in the history of war. 

What were these lessons ? 

(i) That the machine in principle was absolutely sound, 
and that all it required were certain mechanical improve- 

(ii) That it had not been given a fair trial. It had been 


constructed for good going and fine weather ; it had been, 
unavoidably, used on pulverised soil, often converted by 
rain into a pudding of mud. 

(iii) That, on account of the secrecy it was necessary to 
maintain, commanders had little or no conception of the 
tactics to apply to its use. 

(iv) That sufficient time had not been obtainable wherein 
to give the crews a thorough and careful training. 

(v) That tank operations require the most careful prepara- 
tion and minute reconnaissances in order to render them 

(vi) That tanks require leading and controlling in battle, 
and consequently that a complete system of communication 
is essential. 

(vii) That tanks, like every other arm, require a separate 
supply organisation to maintain them whilst fighting. 

(viii) That tanks draw away much fire from the infantry, 
and have as great an encouraging effect on our own troops 
as they have a demoralising one on the enemy's. 

These are the main lessons which were learnt from the 
tank operations which took place during the battles of the 
Somme and the Ancre, and the mere fact of having learnt 
them justifies the employment of tanks during these opera- 
tions. Further it must be remembered that, whatever 
tests are carried out under peace conditions, the only true 
test of efficiency is war, consequently the final test a machine 
or weapon should get is its first battle, and until this test 
has been undergone, no guarantee can be given of its real 
worth, and no certain deductions can be made as to its 
future improvement. 



The word " Reorganisation " is a word which will never be 
forgotten by any member of the Tank Corps Headquarters 
Staff; it was their one persistent companion for over two 
years. It dogged their steps through all seasons, over 
training areas and battlefields in sleuth-hound fashion from 
the earliest days ; and its pace was never stronger or its 
tongue more noisy than when, on November 11, 1918, it 
was temporarily shaken off with the armistice. Depressing 
as this perpetual change often was, reorganisation is, never- 
theless, an extremely healthy sign, for it shows that the 
Tank Corps, a young formation, was not afraid to grow, 
and that it refused to stand still ; and, when all is said and 
done, should not every organisation be dynamic, should 
not it move with the times, expand, grow, and absorb diffi- 
culties rather than push them aside or ignore them ? What- 
ever, in the eyes of others, the Tank Corps may have been, 
throughout the Great War it was an intensely virile for- 

In this chapter the organisation and reorganisation of 
the Tank Corps, first known as the " Heavy Section," and 
later as the " Heavy Branch" of the Machine Gun Corps, 
will be dealt with in its entirety ; for unless we lay this 
spectre in a chapter of its own it will never leave us in peace, 
but will haunt our steps right through this brief history, 
as was its wont when the incidents now related were taking 
form in France and England. 

In June 1916 the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps 
was organised in six companies — A, B, C, D, E, and F. Each 
company consisted of four sections, each of six tanks with 
one spare tank per company — in all twenty-five machines, 



thus absorbing the 150 machines ordered.' Each section 
consisted of 3 male and 3 female tanks, subdivided into 
three sub-sections of 1 male and 1 female each. 

The crew of a tank was 1 officer and 7 other ranks, the 
total personnel of a section being 6 officers and 43 other 
ranks. For every two companies was provided a Quarter- 
master's estabhshment of 1 officer and 4 other ranks, and 
a workshop of 3 officers and 50 other ranks. 

A few days after the Heavy Section had made its debut 
on the battlefield of the Somme, a suggestion was put for- 
ward to organise it on the lines of the Royal Fl}ang Corps, 
which, eventually, in the main was adopted. This was 
undoubtedly a sound suggestion, as every new weapon 
requires an organisation of its own to nurse it through its 

On September 29, Lieutenant-Colonel H. J. Elles, D.S.O., 
who, as we have seen, first came into contact with tanks 
in January 1916, was appointed Colonel Commanding the 
Heavy Section in France, and on the same day that his 
appointment was sanctioned it was decided that 1,000 
tanks should be built, and that certain improvements in 
the existing design of machine should be introduced. At 
this time the Headquarters of the Heavy Section were 
located in one small hut in the centre of the square of the 
village of Beauquesne, and as this village was not con- 
sidered suitable for a permanent Headquarters, Bermicourt 
was selected instead — a small village just north of the 
Hesdin-St.-Pol road. At this village the Headquarters 
remained until the end of the war, expanding from three 
Nissen huts to many acres of buildings. 

On October 8 a provisional establishment for the Head- 
quarters was approved. It consisted of — a Commander 
(Colonel), one Brigade Major, one D.A.A. and Q.M.G., one 
Staff Captain, and one Intelhgence Officer. These appoint- 
ments were filled by the following officers : Colonel H. J. 
Elles, Captain G. le Q. Martel, Captain T. J. Uzielli, Captain 
H. J. Tapper, and Captain F. E. Hotblack. 

■ 1 The original order was for 100, this was later on increased to 160. 


At about this time it was proposed to form the Heavy 
Section into a Corps, giving it an Administrative Head- 
quarters in England and a Fighting Headquarters in France, 
and of converting the four companies in France into four 
battalions, and raising five new battalions in England on 
the nuclei of the two remaining companies. Though the 
formation of the tank units into a Corps was not sanctioned 
at the time the other proposals came into force on October 20, 
Brigadier- General F. Gore Anley, D.S.O., being appointed 
Administrative Commander of the Tank Training Centre, 
Bovington Camp, Wool, in the place of Colonel Swinton, 
with Lieutenant- Colonel E. B. Mathew-Lannowe as his 
G. S.O.I. Under this organisation the 9 battalions were 
eventually to be formed into 3 brigades each of 3 battalions, 
a battalion consisting of 3 companies, each company of 4 
fighting sections and a headquarters section. A fighting 
section consisted of 5 tanks and the headquarters section 
of 8. In all the battalion was, therefore, equipped with 
72 machines. 

On November 18, the day on which the approved estab- 
lishments were issued, the companies, which had continued 
in the area of operations, were moved to the area round 
Bermicourt and, ceasing to exist as companies, became 
A, B, C, and D Battalions Heavy Branch Machine Gun 
Corps. They were located at the following villages : 

A Battalion . 

. Humieres, Echmeux, Bermicourt. 


. Sautrecourt, Pierremont, St. Mar 



. Erin, Tilly-Capelle. 


. Blangy. 

These battalions were eventually formed into the 1st and 
2nd Tank Brigades : the 1st Brigade, consisting of C and D 
Battalions, on January 30, 1917, under the command of 
Colonel C. D'A. B. S. Baker Carr, D.S.O.; and the 2nd Brigade, 
of A and B Battalions, on February 15, under that of Colonel 
A. Courage, M.C. Later, on April 27, in view of the expected 


arrival of two battalions from Wool, approval was given to 
the formation of the 3rd Brigade Headquarters under the 
command of Colonel J. Hardress Lloyd, D.S.O. 

Meanwhile, in England, the whole question of future pro- 
duction was being strenuously dealt with by Lieutenant- 
Colonel Stern, who, on November 23, assembled a conference 
in London at which the future production of tanks was 
explained as follows : 

That at the time of the conference there were 70 Mark I 
machines in France, and it was hoped to deHver improved 
types of this tank as follows : 50 Mark II tanks by January ; 
50 Mark III tanks by February 7 ; Mark IV tanks at the 
rate of 20 per week from February 7 to May 31. Further, 
that Mark V tanks would be available in August and Sep- 
tember 1917, and that a new light tank, called Mark VI, 
would be ready for trial by Christmas 1917. 

Unfortunately, on account of the difficulty of production 
and the constant changes demanded in design, the above 
programme never materialised, and though Mark II tanks 
were sent out to France, no Mark IV machines arrived 
there until after the battle of Arras had been fought 
and"; won. 

Early in the new year the battahons of the Heavy Branch 
underwent a further reorganisation : they were slightly 
reduced in size and the number of their machines was cut 
down from 72 to 60 ; each company, theoretically consisting 
of 20 tanks, was divided into 4 sections of 5 tanks each ; 
for practical purposes, however, it was found that a section 
could not deal with more than 4 tanks, so the number of 
tanks was reduced to 48, of which 36 were earmarked as 
fighting and 12 as training machines. 

In March 1917 General Anley was appointed Administra- 
tive Commander Heavy Branch Machine-Gun Corps with 
his headquarters in London, Brigadier- General W. Glasgow 
taking over the command of the Training Centre at Wool. 
In May he was succeeded by Major-General Sir John Capper, 
K.C.B., and the Tank Committee under his chairmanship 
was formed to systematise and strengthen co-operation 


between the Army and the Ministry of Munitions. On the 
1st of this month, Colonel EUes was gazetted Brigadier- 
General Commanding the Heavy Branch in France. 

The experiences gained during the battle of Arras, in 
April 1917, resulted in proposals being put forward for the 
expansion of the Heavy Branch from nine to eighteen bat- 
talions, nine to be equipped with heavy, and a similar number 
with medium machines.' These proposals mark an important 
stage in the development of the Heavy Branch and they 
were destined to be the subject of many discussions. 

On June 28, the above expansion was authorised, and the 
personnel for new luiits was assembled at the Training 
Centre at Wool. A month later, however, the call for man- 
power became so urgent that the expansion of the Heavy 
Branch had to be suspended. It was on the 28th of this 
month that the Heavy Branch became known as the Tank 

During the following months, August and September, the 
question of the Tank Corps expansion was held in abeyance. 
On October 6 it was once again revived, and a revised estab- 
hshment for the contemplated expansion to eighteen bat- 
taMons was submitted. The outstanding feature of these 
establishments was the abolition of Battahon Workshops 
and the substitution of Brigade Workshops in their place. 
This resulted in a considerable economy of man-power, and 
was rendered possible by the higher training of the tank 
crews ; each tank with its crew thus tended to become a 
self-contained unit. 

On November 27 these establishments received official 
approval, and exactly one week later, on December 4, arising 
out of the overwhelming success gained by tanks at the 
battle of Cambrai (November 20), two new organisations 
were put forward, the first known as the Lower, and the 
second as the Higher Estabhshments. The Lower Estab- 
lishments were eventually decided upon, and they consisted 
in a revised edition of the former estabhshments with various 

1 The lighter form of tank was called " medium " because the French, 
by now, had produced the light Renault tank (see Plate III). 


additions, which the experiences gained at the battle of 
Cambrai had shown to be necessary. These estabhshments, 
though made out, were never approved, and the German 
offensive in March 1918 found the Tank Corps still organised 
on the hnes agreed upon in October. 

In April, on account of the pressing needs for infantry 
reinforcements, the Tank Corps expansion was temporarily 
suspended, two of the three remaining battahons in England 
being reduced to cadre units, and the third converted into 
an Armoured Car Battalion. In July and August the 
astonishing successes gained by tanks on various sectors of 
the Western Front once again brought forward the need of 
increasing the British tank battalions, and the suspension 
was removed, the two remaining battalions of the expansion 
of October 1917 proceeding to France in September 1918. 

In January 1918, from the experience gained by now in 
the time necessary to carry through a reorganisation, pro- 
posals were put forward for 1919. These were eventually 
discussed at the Inter- Alhed Tank Committee, an assembly 
of representatives of the various allied Tank Corps, which 
first met at Versailles in April. The German spring offen- 
sive, however, absorbed so much attention that it was not 
possible at the time to do more than work out, as a basis, 
the number of tanks required for a decisive tank attack 
the following year. As the position of the AlHes in France 
stabihsed the question first discussed at Versailles was in 
July retaken up, with the result that an expansion to thirty- 
four battahons was decided on and completely new estab- 
lishments called for. In order to bring this work more 
closely under the War Office it was also decided, at about 
this time, to dissolve the Tank Directorate, first created in 
May 1917, and to replace it by a new sub-branch of the 
Directorate of Staff Duties. This change took place on 
August 1, when a new branch known as S.D.7 was added 
to the Directorate of Staff Duties at the War Office to deal 
with the administration of tanks generally, and the 1919 
tank programme in particular. 

At the same time the Tank Committee was abolished, its 


place being taken by the Tank Board, which was constituted 
as follows : 

Major-General the Right Honourable J. E. B. Seely, C.B., 
C.M.G., D.S.O., M.P., President (Deputy Minister of 

Sir Eustace Tennyson D'Eyncourt, K.C.B., Vice-President 
(Director of Naval Construction). 

Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, K.C.B., KC.V.O., D.S.O. 
(Controller Munitions Inventions). 

Major-General Sir WiUiam Furse, K.C.B., D.S.O. (Master 
General of Ordnance, representing the Army Council). 

Major-General E. D. Swinton, C.B., D.S.O. 

Major-General H. J. Elles, C.B., D.S.O. (Commanding Tank 
Corps, France). 

Lieutenant- Colonel Sir Albert Stern, K.B.E., C.M.G. (Com- 
missioner Mechanical Warfare, Overseas and AlUes 

Colonel J. F. C. Fuller, D.S.O. (D.D.S.D. Tanks : represent- 
ing General Staff, War Office). 

Mr. J. B. Maclean (Controller of Mechanical Warfare). 

Sir Percival Perry (Inspector of Mechanical Traction). 

Captain A. Earle, Secretary. 

The constitution of the Board is interesting as it enabled 
expert naval, military, and industrial knowledge to be 
concentrated on the one subject — ^the application of naval 
tactics to land warfare. The work accomplished by this 
Board was considerable, it was carried out in a high co-opera- 
tive spirit and with great good-fellowship, and it would, 
undoubtedly, have proved a factor of no small importance 
in the complete destruction of the German armies in 1919, 
which was practically fore-ordained by a tank programme of 
some 6,000 machines, had the war continued. 

September was a month of great activity at the Training 
Centre at Wool, and an extensive building programme was 
commenced under the direction of Brigadier- General E. B. 
Mathew-Lannowe, D.S.O., who had taken over the command 


of the Training Centre on August I from Brigadier-General 
W. Glasgow, C.M.G. 

On October 22 the new establishments were received at 
the War Office, and were approved of and returned to G.H.Q. 
four days later. Considering that these establishments 
covered ninety-six pages of typed foolscap it may be claimed 
that the last reorganisation the Tank Corps experienced 
dui'ing the Great War was carried through in record time. 



The first " Instructions on Training " were issued to battalions 
of the Heavy Branch towards the end of December 1916. 
They are of some interest, as the esprit de corps and the 
efficiency of the entire formation was by degrees moulded 
on them. 

" The object of all training is to create a ' corps d'elite,' 
that is a body of men who are not only capable of helping 
to win this war, but are determined to do so. It cannot 
be emphasised too often that all training, at all times and 
in all places, must aim at the cultivation of the offensive 
spirit in all ranks. The requirements, therefore, are a high 
efficiency and a high moral. 

" Efficiency depends on mental alertness and bodily 
fitness ; the first is produced by extensive knowledge and 
rapidity of thinking logically, the second by physical train- 
ing, games, and the maintenance of health. 

" Moral depends on esprit de corps and esprit de cocarde ; 
the first is produced by discipline, organisation and skill, 
the second by pride, smartness and prestige. 

" Efficient instructors and leaders are essential ; indifferent 
ones must be ruthlessly weeded out. Officers must not con- 
tent themselves with the teaching and knowledge they gain, 
but must supplement these by personal study and effort. 
Further, they must exercise their ingenuity in adapting the 
knowledge they have gained so that it may interest and 
expand the ideas of those they teach. In mental superiority 
and bodily vigour they must be examples to their men. 

"As a general principle, officers and N.C.O.s, charged 
with the duty of instruction of troops, should adopt the 
following method : First the lesson is to be explained, 
secondly demonstrated, and finally carried out as an exercise. 
" Instruction must be interesting. As interest soon flags, 
subjects will be changed at short intervals, though the same 



movements must be frequently practised on different 

" Changes should be based on a system ; thus, work which 
has required brain power should be followed by work entailing 
physical exertion, and vice versa. As physical training 
develops muscle on a definite system, so should mental 
training develop mind. It will not be easy to accomplish 
this unless schemes are carefully organised and thought out, 
and training is carried out according to a progressive pro- 

" Much time is often wasted by attempting long unrealistic 
movements and by prolonged drill. Three to four hours a 
day, divided into hourly or half-hourly periods, should be 
sufficient. Ten minutes' rest intervals should succeed each 
hour's work. 

" All work must be carried out at high pressure. Every 
exercise and movement should, if possible, be reduced to a 
precise drill. 

" Games will be organised as a definite part of training. 

" Order is best cultivated by carrying out all work on a 
fixed plan. Order is the foundation of discipline. Small 
things like marching men always at attention to and from 
work, making them stand to attention before dismissing 
them, assist in cultivating steadiness and discipline. Each 
day should commence with a careful inspection of the 
billets and the men, or some similar formal parade. Strict 
march discipline to and from the training grounds must be 
insisted upon. 

" It is an essential part of training for war that the men 
are taught to care for themselves, so as to maintain their 
physical fitness. To this end the necessity for taking the 
most scrupulous care of their clothing, equipment and 
accoutrements will be explained to them. 

" The importance of obedience to orders will be impressed 
on all ranks and prevention of waste rigorously enforced. 

" Both in the case of officers and N.C.O.s special atten- 
tion should be paid to the training of understudies for all 
positions and appointments. 

" The men must be brought to understand that on the 
skill they gain during training will depend their lives as well 
as the result of the battle. Instruction is not a matter of 
getting through a definite time, but of employing that time 
to the fullest advantage." 


The training of the Heavy Branch was divided into the 
following categories : Brigade Training, Battalion Training, 
Schools, Courses of Instruction, Camps of Instruction, 
Lectures and Depot Training. 

Brigade and battalion training were divided into two 
periods — individual training and collective training. As time 
was very limited, all individual training had to be completed 
by February 15, 1917. 

" The object of individual training " (to quote the " In- 
structions ") " is twofold : first, to impart technical knowledge 
and skill ; secondly, to cultivate general knowledge so as to 
enable all ranks to obtain the highest benefit from the 
schemes set in collective training. These latter in their 
turn are for the purpose of training units for battle. Indi- 
vidual training is the keynote of efficiency. On the thorough- 
ness with which it is carried out rests the efficiency of the 
whole training." 

The object of the collective training was : 

" To apply, in conditions as near as possible to those which 
will be met with in battle, the detail learnt during individual 

" This comprises : 

" (i) Close co-operation with the other arms. 

" (ii) Rapidity of movement across ground in fighting 

" (iii) Selection of objectives with reference to the plan 
of operations." 

During January and February all officers took part in a 
long indoor scheme which when completed formed a tactical 
and administrative basis for future operations, and all ranks 
were lectured to on discipline, esprit de corps, moral, and 

Whilst the above work was in progress a Reinforcement 
Depot was formed, first at Humeroeuil, later on it was moved 
to Erin, and eventually to Mers, near Le Treport. The 
Depot was the receiving station of all drafts arriving for the 
Tank Corps, whether from the Training Centre in England, 
or from units or hospitals in France. The duty of the Depot 


was to hold on its strength all reinforcements until fully 
trained, and when fully trained to continue refresher training 
until they were required to fill vacancies in the battahons. 

Besides the Depot and the schools attached to it, two main 
schools — Gunnery and Tank Driving — were instituted in the 
Bermicourt area. In the early summer of 1917 the first 
was moved to the sea coast at Merhmont, and the second 
to Wailly, a village close to the zone devastated by the 
Germans during their retreat in the preceding February" 
and March, which permitted of driving being carried out 
without damage to crops. This school remained at Wailly 
until January 1918, when, on account of the threatening 
German attack, it was moved to Aveluy near Albert. As it 
happened, Aveluy fell into the German hands towards the 
end of March 1918, whilst Wailly remained in ours until the 
end of the war. 

Closely connected with the training of the men was the 
general administration of the Heavy Branch. It was fully 
recognised that the efficiency of all ranks depended to a 
great extent on the cheerfulness and comfort of their surround- 
ings, and nothing was left undone, or at least unattempted, 
which could increase the men's happiness and health. 

On January 1, 1917, baths and laundries were opened at 
Blangy. The arrangements first made enabled 450 men 
to bathe each day; this permitted of every man getting a 
bath once a week. Cinema theatres were also established 
at the Depot, and later on at Merlimont and elsewhere, 
being bought out of funds provided by the canteens' and 
supper bars. While at Erin a Rest Camp was formed to 
which those men who were temporarily incapacitated for 
work were sent to recuperate. This later institution was 
found so useful that in the summer of 1917 a seaside Rest 
Camp was established at Merlimont, the object of which was 
to provide rest and change of surroundings to men who 
had been in action, or whose health was impaired. This 
camp could accommodate 100 officers and 900 other ranks, 
and the period of rest there was usually limited to fourteen 


An even more popular institution than the Merlimont 
Rest Camp was that of the Mobile Canteens : these consisted 
in lorries fitted to carry canteen stores ; they formed the 
mechanical vivandieres of the Tank Corps, following up units 
to within a mile or two of our front lines or pushing forward 
across the battlefield when a success had been gained. During 
the dark days of March and April 1918, they played a 
notable part in maintaining the esprit de corps of the bat- 
■ tahons by providing comforts which would otherwise have 
been unobtainable. They also formed cheerful rallying- 
points where men could meet, eat, and chat, and then return 
to battle refreshed and still more determined to see it 
through for the honour of the Corps to which they belonged 
and which, it may without boasting be said, always thought 
of their needs first and generally supplied them. 



The training of the Heavy Branch having been laid down, 
it was next necessary to discover and decide upon a common 
method of tactics,^ so that directly individual instruction 
had been completed collective training might be based on 
it ; further, rumours were already afloat that the Heavy 
Branch might be called upon to take part in the spring 
offensive, so there was no time to be lost in deciding upon 
suitable methods and formations of attack. This was done 
early in February, when " Training Note No. 16," which will 
long be remembered by many in the Tank Corps, was issued. 

Though experience is the only true test of a system of 
tactics, the foundations of the tactics suitable to any par- 
ticular weapon are not based on experiences, but on the 
limitations of the weapon, that is on its powers, and on the 
fundamental principles of war. Further than this, if the 
weapon concerned is to be employed in co-operation with 
other weapons, the powers of these other weapons must 
also be considered, so that all the weapons to be employed 
may, so to speak, like a puzzle, be fitted togethe^j during 
battle to form one united picture. 

In thinking out a tactics for tanks, the first factors to 
bear in mind are the powers of the machine, which may be 
summarised in three words: "penetration with security." 
Heretofore fronts had remained to all intents and purposes 
inviolable to direct infantry attacks ; the tank was now 
going to break down this deadlock through its ability to 
cross wire and trenches imder fire with far less risk than 
infantry could ever hope for. Mechanically, the machine 

1 At this time, January 1917, General Swinton's notes given in Chapter IV 
were not known of at the Heavy Branch Headquarters. 
7 73 


was far from perfect, consequently, it was laid down, as a 
general rule, that never fewer than two tanks should operate 
together, and when possible not fewer than four. 

From a military point of view the penetration o'f a line of 
defence does not simply mean passing straight through it, 
but cutting it in half, and then by moving outwards as well 
as forwards to push back and envelop the flanks thus created 
and so widen the base of operation to admit the movement 
forwards of reserves and supplies, and the movement back- 
wards of casualties and tired troops. A man getting through 
a hedge first selects a weak spot (point of attack), he then 
forces his arms through the branches (penetration), and 
pushing them outwards (envelopment), forms a sufficiently 
large gap (base of operations) to permit of his body (army) 
passing easily through the hedge (enemy's defences). 

The operation of penetration with tanks is just the same. 
Take a half section, two machines ; this half section first 
penetrates the enemy's defences by crossing them (see 
diagram 7), then by moving outwards, say to the left, starts 
enlarging the base by driving the enemy towards A, and so 
makes a gap between the point of penetration and A, for 
the infantry to move through. As the enemy may, whilst 
the tanks are working towards A, seek refuge in his dug- 
outs and " come to life " again after the tanks have passed 
by, it is necessary that the tanks should be followed by an 
infantry " mopping up " party which will bomb the dug- 
outs and so render " coming to life " less frequent. As 
the bombing party has to work up the trench with the 
tank, it cannot hold the trench once it is cleared, conse- 
quently another party of infantry should follow the bombers, 
whose duty it is to garrison the trench on it being captured. 
We therefore find that even in the smallest tank attack 
two parties of infantry are required : in trench warfare 
these are known as " moppers up " and " support," and in 
field warfare as " firing line " and " supports." Frequently 
it is as well to add another party, a " reserve," so that some 
definite force of men may be held in hand to meet any 
unexpected event. 

Diagram 7 

^ -^ 

Diagram 8 

Diagram 9 
— »~ -^ — 


\ / 

Diagram 10 

Diagram 11 


am 12 





If instead of two tanks we use four, a much more effective 
operation may be carried out. The tanks can either pene- 
trate at one place, and wheel outwards by pairs (see diagram 
8), or by pairs penetrate at two separate points and wheel 
inwards, pinching on the centre (see diagram 9), or two 
can wheel to a flank and two proceed straight ahead (see 
diagram 10) and threaten the enemy's line of retreat. When 
this latter operation is contemplated it is as well to make use 
of at least six machines, better twelve, i.e. a complete com- 
pany of tanks. If six machines are used they normally 
should strike the enemy's line at approximately the same 
place ; from there one half section should go straight forward 
and one to each flank, forming what has been called the 
" Trident formation " (see diagram 11). If twelve machines 
are employed, then each section of four tanks strikes the 
trench at a separate point, the centre section forging straight 
ahead and the flanking sections moving inwards and out- 
wards as depicted in diagram 12. 

Particular attention should be paid to the outward move- 
ments of the flanks, for, as the flanks of our own penetrating 
or attacking force are generally the most vulnerable points, 
if we can push forward offensive wings on these flanks we 
shall not only be protecting our own flanks from attack, 
by giving the enemy no time to attack in, but we shall be 
protecting our central line of advance as well. The force 
operating along this central line not only depends for its 
movement forward on the security of its flanks, but also on 
the size of the base of operations ; the broader this base the 
more secure will it be, for the one thing an attacking army 
wishes to avoid is getting into a pocket on the interior of 
which all hostile fke is concentrated. 

From the above elementary movements can be worked 
out a whole series of battle formations according to the 
various arms which are to be employed. The following 
three were those generally used by tanks from the battle 
of Cambrai onwards : 

(1) An attack against trenches with an artillery barrage (see 
diagram 13). — Three tanks in line at 100 to 200 yards' interval, 

Diagram 13 

Diagram 14 

Artillery Barrage 



Diagram 15 












followed by infantry in sections, each section forming an 
independent fighting unit advancing in single file and attack- 
ing in line, the whole forming one firing hne. Behind this 
firing line should advance one tank and a certain number 
of infantry sections as a support. Reserves can be added 
as necessary. 

(2) An attack against trenches without an artillery barrage 
(see diagram 14). — One tank in advance, followed at a distance 
of 100 to 150 yards by two others at 200 to 300 yards' interval, 
and one tank in support. The infantry should be disposed 
of as before. The advanced tank to a certain extent replaces 
the artillery barrage and acts as a scout to the two behind, 
which form part of the infantry firing line. 

(3) The field warfare attack (see diagram 15). — In the field 
attack the action of the tanks must be adapted to circum- 
stances. This action falls under three headings : 

(i) Moving in front of the infantry firing line. 

(ii) Moving with the infantry firing line. 

(iii) Moving behind the infantry firing line. 

When moving with the infantry firing line, which will 
generally be the most suitable formation to adopt, tank 
sections should form mobile strong points or bastions, 
which will not only reduce the number of infantry required 
for the firing line, but which will be able to bring obhque 
and cross fire to bear in front of the advancing infantry. 
In order to reduce the human target as much as possible 
without reducing fire effect, Lewis-gun sections should 
freely be used to cover by fire the intervals between tank 
sections. These Lewis-gun sections should be followed 
by rifle sections which, directly opposition is broken down 
by the tanks and the Lewis gunners, should move rapidly 
forward several hundred yards in front of the tank and 
infantry firing line, forming to it a protective screen of sharp- 
shooters. This formation should then be maintained until 
the rifle sections get hung up, when the tank and Lewis-gun 
firing line should pass through them to renew the attack, 
the rifle sections forming up in support in rear. Curiously 
enough this formation resembles very closely that generally 


adopted by the Roman Velites and Hastati (riflemen), 
Principes (Lewis gunners), Triarii (tanks), and Napoleon's 
Light Infantry (riflemen). Infantry of the Line (Lewis 
gunners). Old Guard and Heavy Cavalry (tanks). 

As an infantry attack depends on the following principles 
— the objective, the offensive, security, mass, economy of 
force, surprise, movement, and co-operation — so does a tank 
attack. The tank must know what it is after, it must act 
vigorously, it must be protected by artillery just hke infantry, 
it must attack in mass, that is in strength and numbers, but 
not, necessarily, all in one place ; it must surprise the enemy, 
move as rapidly as it can, and work hand in glove with the 
other arms. On the appHcation of these principles to the 
conditions which will be met with will depend the success 
or failure of the tank attack. 

The first condition to inquire into is the position of the 
objective ; is the ground leading up to it suitable for tank 
movement, is the country on the flank of such a nature as 
to permit of offensive wings being- formed ? The second 
is the position and number of the enemy's guns ; can these 
be controlled by counter-battery work or smoke ; how will 
they affect the lines of approach and their selection ? The 
third is the number of subsidiary objectives before the final 
one is captured. The fourth is the " springing off " position 
of our own infantry, and the fifth is, how can the enemy 
be surprised ? These five questions being satisfactorily 
answered, the normal procedure is to divide the whole tank 
force into a main body and two wings ; to take these 
three forces and to divide each up into as many lines of 
tanks as there are objectives to be attacked ; to divide 
each objective up into tank attack areas according to the 
number of tactical points each contains. Provided the 
enemy does not possess tanks himself, or a sure antidote 
to their use, which the Germans never did possess, a well- 
considered and mounted tank, infantry, artillery, and 
aeroplane attack is the nearest approach to certainty of 
success that has ever been devised in the history of war. 
No well-planned extensive tank attack has in the past ever 


failed, and each one has resulted in more prisoners having 
been captured than casualties suffered. These are historic 
facts and not mere paeans of praise ; they, consequently, 
deserve our most careful consideration when eventually we 
plan and prepare for the future. 



The great battles which opened the Allies' 1917 campaign on 
the Western Front were the direct outcome of two main causes : 

(i) The strategical positions of the opposing Armies result- 
ing from the battle of the Aisne in 1914. 

(ii) The tactical position of the same Armies resulting 
from the battle of the Somme in 1916. 

The former placed nine-tenths of the German Army in 
the west, in a huge salient Ostend-Noyon-Nancy ; the 
latter a considerable portion of that Army in a smaller one, 
Arras-Gommecourt-Morval. The former offered possibilities 
for the Allies to get in a right and left hand blow on two 
of the main centres of the German communications — Valen- 
ciennes and Mezi^res ; the latter a right and left hand blow 
in the direction of Queant against the northern and southern 
flanks of the German Sixth and First Armies. 

Had it been possible to bring off these latter blows success- 
fully, such a debacle of the German forces would have 
resulted that not only would the advance of the British 
First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Armies have seriously threat- 
ened Valenciennes, but the rush of German reserves to stop 
the gap would have withdrawn pressure from before the 
French about Reims, and would probably have enabled 
them to advance on Mezi^res. 

A plan for an attack in the vicinity of Arras had been 
considered shortly before the opening of the battle of the 
Somme on July 1, 1916; it was then dropped, only to be 
revived in October, when the plan contemplated was to 
drive in the northern flank of the Gommecourt salient. It 
was hoped to employ two battalions of forty-eight tanks 
each in this operation ; but, as the tanks promised in January 



did not materialise until the end of April, this plan had to 
be continually modified. 

Meanwhile a hostile operation began to take place which 
bid fair to filch from us the tactical advantage we had won 
during the preceding summer. Towards the end of February 
it became apparent that the Germans intended to evacuate 
the Gommecourt salient ; and the recent construction of 
the Hindenburg Line suggested a rounding off of the right 
angle between Arras and Craonne. 

The German retirement necessitated certain changes in 
the British plan of operations. The Fourth Army reheved 
the French between the Somme and Roye ; the Third 
Army, consisting of five Corps and three Cavahy Divisions, 
was now to penetrate the German defences, and by marching 
on Cambrai turn the Hindenburg Line from Heninel to 
Marcoing ; the First and Fifth Armies were to operate on 
the left and right flanks of the Third Army. 

The success of the British plan of attack depended on 
penetrating not only the German front-line system, but also 
the Drocourt-Queant line within forty-eight hours of initiating 
the attack ; for, by so doing, so severe a wound would be 
inflicted that the Germans would be forced to move their 
reserves towards Cambrai and Douai, and away from Soissons 
and Reims, where the main blow was eventually to fall. 
Time, therefore, was, as usual, the all-important factor — 
could the Drocourt-Queant line be penetrated before the 
enemy was able to assemble his reserves ? 

Tanks, it was decided, should assist in gaining this time, 
yet on April 1, after denuding the training grounds of both 
England and France, only 60 Mark I and Mark II tanks 
could be reckoned on for the battle. 

There were three ways in which these sixty tanks could 
be used, either by concentrating the whole against one 
objective such as Monchy-le-Preux, if a penetration of the 
centre were required, or against BuUecourt, if an envelop- 
ment of the German left flank were considered necessary, 
or to allot a proportion of machines to each Army or Corps 
for minor " mopping up " operations. 


The last-mentioned course was eventually adopted and 
the following allotment of machines made : 

(i) Eight tanks, to the First Army to operate against 
the Vimy Heights and the village of Thelus. 

(ii) Forty tanks to the Third Army, eight to operate 
with the XVIIth Corps north of the river Scarpe, and thirty- 
two to operate with the Vlth and Vllth Corps south of 
the river Scarpe. 

(iii) Twelve tanks to operate with the Fifth Army. 

The Third Army plan of operations was as follows : The 
Vlth and Vllth Corps were to attack south of the river 
Scarpe between Arras and Mercatel. Their objective ran 
from a point 2,000 yards south-east of Henin-sur-Cojeul 
northwards to Guemappe, thence east of Monchy-le-Preux 
to the Scarpe. This objective was 10,000 yards in length 
and 8,000 in depth. It contained two formidable lines of 
defences : 

(i) The Cojeul-Neuville Vitasse-Telegraph hill-Harp-Tilloy 
les Mafflaines line, much of which had been fortified for 
over two years. 

(ii) The Feuchy Chapel-Feuchy line. 

South of these systems was the Hindenburg Line, and east 
of them Monchy-le-Preux, which dominates the whole of 
the surrounding country. Three valleys lie between this 
eminence and the city of Arras. 

The XVIIth Corps was to continue the attack north of 
the river Scarpe and occupy a line running from east of 
Fampoux to the Point du Jour, and thence to a point 4,000 
yards east of Roclincourt. The country along the northern 
bank of the Scarpe was intricate, and in it many excellent 
positions existed for hostile machine-guns. Further, the 
railway running to Bailleul was in itself a formidable obstacle. 

The First Army attack comprised the taking of the famous 
Vimy Heights, Thelus and the hill north of Thelus, a position 
considered one of the strongest in France. 

The Fifth Army was to operate between Lagnicourt and 
the right of the Third Army, driving northwards towards 
Vis-en-Artois. The operation to be carried out by this 


Army was a most difficult one. Tlie destruction of the 
roads and the bad weather had rendered it impossible to 
move forward sufficient artillery — a sine qua non of all 
attacks of this period. 

The whole of the above operations were to be considered 
as the preliminaries to the advance of two Cavalry Divisions 
and the XVIIIth Corps south of the Scarpe, which force 
was to break through at Monchy and advance eastwards 
on to the Drocourt-Queant line. 

The general preparations required for a tank battle will be 
dealt with in another chapter, suffice it here to state that 
they were divided up as follows — preliminary reconnaissances, 
the formation of forward supply dumps, the preparation of 
tankodromes and places of assembly, the programme of 
rail movements and the fixing and preparing of the tank 
routes forward from the tankodromes. 

Reconnaissances were started as early as January, and 
were most thoroughly carried out. Supply dumps were 
formed at Beaurains, Achicourt, near Roclincourt and Neu- 
ville St. Vaast. As no supply tanks were in existence, 
supplies had to be carried forward by hand and, at the time, 
it was reckoned that had these machines been forthcoming, 
each one would have saved a carrying party of from 300 to 
400 men. The railheads for the Fifth, Third, and First 
Armies were selected at Achiet le Grand, Montenescourt, 
and Acq respectively. The movements of tanks and supplies 
to these stations were successfully carried out after several 
minor hitches, such as trucks giving way, trains running 
late, and, on March 22, 20,000 gallons of petrol being destroyed 
in a railway accident. Incidents such as these are, however, 
of little account if the plan has been worked out with fore- 

The only real mishap which occurred took place on the 
night of April 8-9, to a column of tanks which was moving 
up from Achicourt to the starting-points. Achicourt lies 
in a valley through which runs the Crinchon stream. The 
surface of the ground here is hard, but under this superficial 
crust lies, in places, boggy soil which was only discovered 

9*-'' April 1917. 






du Joui^ 


I in 
I \o 







2000 3000 Yards 


when six tanks broke through the top strata and floundered 
in a morass of mud and water. Those who were present 
will never forget the hours which followed this mishap. 
Eventually the tanks were got out, but too late to take part 
in the initial attack on the following day. 

On April 7 and 8 the weather was fine, but, as ill-luck 
would have it, heavy rain fell during the early morning of 
the 9th. At zero hour (dawn) the tanks moved off behind 
the infantry, but the heavily " crumped " area on the Vimy 
Ridge, soaked by rain as it now was, proved too much for 
the tanks of the First Army, and all became ditched at a 
point 500 yards east of the German front line, and never 
took part in any actual fighting. The four which started 
from Roclincourt had but little better luck, and though 
they advanced considerably further they also ditched and 
went out of action. 

The artillery barrage was magnificent and the Canadians 
went forward under it and took the Vimy Heights almost 
at a rush, capturing several thousand prisoners. The 
rapidity of this advance, due to the excellent work of our 
artillery and the dash of the Canadians, rendered the co- 
operation of tanks needless ; it was, therefore, decided to 
withdraw the eight machines with the First Army, and send 
them to the Fifth Army. Those from RocMncourt were 
also withdrawn to reinforce those operating immediately 
north of the Scarpe. 

The four tanks which started just east of Arras had better 
luck, for though one was knocked out by shell fire shortly 
after starting, the remaining three worked eastwards down 
the Scarpe and rendered valuable assistance to the infantry 
by " mopping up " hostile machine-guns. 

South of the Scarpe the infantry attacked with equal 
elan. About Tilloy les Mafilaines, the Harp, and Telegraph 
hill the tanks caught up with the attack and accounted for 
a good many Germans, and then, pushing on, helped in the 
reduction of the Blue line (Neuville Vitasse-Bois des Bceufs- 
Hervin farm) and such parts of the Brown (Heninel-Feuchy 
Chapel- Feuchy) as they were able to reach during daylight. 


The ground on the Harp, an immensely strong earthwork, 
was much " crumped " and some of the trenches had 2 ft. 
of water in them. A good many tanks belhed here. 

The operations of the tanks on the 9th can only be con- 
sidered as partially successful — due chiefly to the difficulty 
of the ground, wet and heavily shelled, and the rapidity 
of the infantry advance. 

On the following day only minor operations were under- 
taken, and salvage was at once started, the ditched tanks 
being dug out and withdrawn to refit. 

On the 11th three important tank attacks were made, 
the first from Feuchy Chapel on Monchy ; the second from 
Neuville Vitasse down the Hindenburg Line, and the third 
against the village of BuUecourt. 

The first attack was eminently successful for, though only 
three of the six tanks which started from Feuchy Chapel 
reached Monchy, it was due to the gallant way in which 
they were fought more than to any other cause that the 
infantry were able to occupy this extremely valuable tactical 
position. Once Monchy was captured the cavalry moved 
forward. From all accounts the Germans, at this period 
of the battle, were in a high state of demoralisation, but 
notwithstanding this, as long as they possessed a few stout- 
hearted machine-gunners, an effective cavalry advance was 
impossible, and the only arm which could have rendered • 
its employment feasible was the tank — the machine-gun 
destroyer — and as there were no longer any fit or capable of 
coming into action the Germans found time to stiffen their 
defence and to consolidate their position. 

The second attack was made from Neuville Vitasse with 
four tanks. These machines worked right down the Hinden- 
burg Line to Heninel, driving the Germans underground and 
killing great numbers of them. They then turned north-east 
towards Wancourt, and for several hours engaged the Germans 
in the vicinity of this village. All four eventually got back 
to our lines after having fought a single-handed action for 
between eight and nine hours. It was a memorable little 
action in spite of the fact that its ultimate value was not great. 


The third operation, the attack on and east of the village 
of Bullecourt, is the most interesting of the three. All 
previous operations in this battle had been based on the 
timing and strength of the artillery barrage, the tanks 
taking a purely subordinate part. In the present attack 
the position of the tanks, as compared with the other arms, 
was reversed; for they took the leading part, and though 
the attack was eventually a failure, they demonstrated 
clearly the possibility of tanks carrying out duties which 
up to the present had been definitely allotted to artillery 
— ^the two chief ones being wire -cutting and the creeping 
barrage which, henceforth, could be carried out by wire- 
crushing and the mobile barrage produced by the tank 
6-pounders and machine-guns. • 

The plan of attack was as follows : 11 tanks were to be 
drawn up in line at 80 yards interval from each other, and 
at 800 yards distance from the German line. Their task 
was to penetrate the Hindenburg Line east of Bullecourt; 
6 to wheel westwards (4 to attack Bullecourt and 2 the 
Hindenburg Line north-west of Bullecourt), 3 to advance on 
Reincourt and Hendecourt, and 2 to move eastwards down 
the Hindenburg trenches. This operation was similar to 
the one already discussed in Chapter VIII, " Tank Tactics," 
and called the " Trident Formation." 

All 11 tanks started at zero, which was fixed at 4.30 a.m. 
Those on the wings were rapidly put out of action by hostile 
artillery fire; however, 2 out of the 3, ordered to advance 
on Reincourt and Hendecourt, entered these villages and the 
infantry following successfully occupied them. 

In spite of the very heavy casualties suffered, the tanks 
in the centre had carried out their work successfully, when 
a strong converging German counter-attack, partly due to 
the impossibility of creating offensive flanks to our central 
attack, retook the villages of Reincourt and Hendecourt, 
captured the two tanks and several hundred men of the 
4th Australian Division. The loss of the two tanks was 
unfortunate, for the Germans discovered that their latest 
armour-piercing bullets would penetrate their sides and 


sponsons. This discovery led to a German order being 
published that all infantry should in future carry a certain 
number of these bullets. 

The interest of the BuUecourt operation lies in the fact that 
it was the first occasion on which tanks were used to replace 
artillery. It failed for various reasons — the haste with which 
the operation was prepared ; the changes in the plan of 
attack on the night prior to the attack ; the unavoidable 
lack of artillery support ; and above all the insufficiency of 
tanks for such an operation and the lack of confidence on 
the part of the infantry in the tanks themselves. 

Between April 12 and 22 all tank operations were of a 
minor nature. By the 20th of this month thirty of the 
original machines were refitted and on the 23rd eleven of 
these were employed in operations around Monchy, Gavrelle, 
and the Chemical Works at Roeux ; excellent results were 
obtained, but no fewer than five out of the eleven machines 
sustained serious casualties from armour-piercing bullets, 
which had now become the backbone of the enemy's (anti- 
tank defence. 

The general result of the tank operations was favourable, 
though the number of casualties sustained exceeded expec- 
tation. The value of the work they accomplished was 
recognised by all the units with which they worked. The 
casualties they inflicted on the enemy were undoubtedly 
heavy; in most cases where they advanced the infantry 
attack succeeded, and the highest compliment which was 
paid to their efficiency came from the enemy himself, who 
took every possible step to counter their activity. 

The operations showed that the training of all ranks had 
been carried out on sound and practical lines. The fighting 
spirit of the men was high, the tanks being fought with great 
gallantry. One commanding officer stated, in his report 
on the battle, that the behaviour of his officers and men 
might be summed up as " a triumph of moral over technical 

This fine fighting spirit was undoubtedly due to the 
excellent leadership all officers and N.C.O.s had exercised 


during individual and collective training ; and to the full 
recreational training given to the battalions during these 
periods, games and sports as a fighting basis having been 
sedulously cultivated. 

The main tactical lessons learnt and accentuated were : — ■ 
that tanks should be used in mass, that is they should be 
concentrated and not dispersed ; that a separate force of 
tanks should be allotted to each objective, and that a strong 
reserve should always be kept in hand ; that sections and, 
if possible, companies should be kept intact ; that the 
Mark I and Mark II machines were not suitable to use over 
wet heavily-shelled ground ; that the moral effect of tanks 
was very great ; that counter- battery work is essential to theil 
security ; and that supply and signal tanks are an absolute 

On the evening of April 10 the Colonel Commanding the 
Heavy Branch received the following telegram from the 
Commander-in-Chief : 

" My congratulations on the excellent work performed by 
the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps during yester- 
day's operations. Please convey to those who took part 
my appreciation of the gallantry and skill shown by them." 



In order to record the personal experiences of each tank 
Crew Commander in battle, and to collect statistics as to 
the work of the tanks themselves, shortly before the battle 
of Arras was fought, a form was introduced known as a 
" Tank Battle History Sheet." These sheets were issued to 
Crew Commanders prior to an engagement, were filled in 
by them after its completion and, eventually, forwarded to 
Tank Corps Headquarters, where they were summarised by 
the Tank Corps General Staff. By this means it was possible 
to collect many valuable experiences from the soldiers them- 
selves, information which unfortunately so frequently is 
apt to evaporate when the final battle report starts on its 
journey from one headquarters to the next. 

Outside the material value of these reports they frequently 
possessed a psychological value, and by reading them with 
a little insight it was possible to gauge, with fair accuracy, 
the moral of the fighting men, an " atmosphere " so difficult 
to breathe when in rear of the battle line, so impossible to 
create, and yet so necessary to the mental health of the 
General Staff and the Higher Command. 

This system of record, initiated at the battle of Arras, 
was maintained in the Tank Corps up to the conclusion of 
the war, many hundreds of these brief histories being written. 
The following are taken, almost at random, from those 
made out during the above-mentioned battle, and are fair 
examples of early tank fighting. 

Battle History or Chew No. D.6. Tank No. 505. Date 9/4/17. 

Commanded by Libutbnai*t A 

Unit to which attached .... 14th Division. 

Hour the tank started for action . . . 6.20 a.m., April 9, 1917. 



Hour of zero . . . . . .5.30 a.m. (14th Division at 

tacking at 7.30 a.m.). 

Extent and nature of hostile shell fire . . Increasing aa tank worked 

along Hindenburg Line. 

Ammunition expended ..... 3,500 rounds S.A.A. 

Casualties ....... Nil. 

P osition of tank after action .... Caught in large tank trap 

and struck by shell fire. 

Condition of tank after action . . . Damaged by shell fire. 

Orders received. — To attack Telegraph hill with infantry 
of 14th Division at 7.30 a.m. on April 9, 1917, then proceed 
along Hindenburg Line to Neuville Vitasse. To wait at 
rallying- point N.E. of Neuville Vitasse until infantry ad- 
vanced again towards Wancourt. To proceed with infantry 
to Wancourt and assist them wherever necessary. 

Report of action. — Tank left starting-point at Beaurains at 
6.30 a.m., on April 9, 1917, crossed our front line at 7.27 a.m., 
attacking Telegraph hill with the infantry at 7.30 a.m. ; 
then worked towards Neuville Vitasse along the Hinden- 
burg Line. At a point about 1,000 yards N.E. of Neuville 
Vitasse, the tank was caught in a trap consisting of a large 

gun-pit carefully covered with turf. I and Sergeant B 

immediately got out and went to guide other tanks clear of 
the trap in spite of M.G. and shell fire. 

(Signed) A , Lieut., 

O.C. Tank D.6. 

Batti^ History of Cbew No. D.9. Tank No. 770. Date 9/4/17. 
Commanded by 2nd Lieutenant C 

Unit to which attached .... 30th Division. 

Hour the tank started for action . . . 4.45 a.m. 

Hour of zero ...... 5.30 a.m. 

Extent and nature of hostile shell fire . . Very severe from the mo- 

ment of entry into enemy 

Ammunition expended ..... Unknown. 

Casualties ....... Corporal wounded, since 

sent to hospital. 

Position of tank after action .... Ditched in C.T. near Neu- 

vUle Vitasse trench. 

Condition of tank after action . . . Ditched but sound. 


Orders received. — To proceed from Mercatel to the Zoo 
trench system through the Cojeul switch to Nepal trench, 
from thence with the infantry to Wane our t. 

Report of action. — Owing to mechanical trouble tank was 
delayed in coming into action. Having rectified this, I 
proceeded to join D.IO — D.ll as ordered. 

I eventually found these tanks out of action and proceeded 
alone to a further line of trenches, where I met with decidedly 
severe hostile machine-gun and shell fire. I consider we 
were successful in quelling one of the many sniper posts, 
but on account of being ditched were prevented from pro- 
ceeding. It would appear, however, that the presence of 
my tank — it being on the right flank of our infantry, which 
was up in the air — was a deterrent to the enemy, of whom 
small bodies were still in existence in the vicinity. I caused 
my 6-pounders to be manned, and we held our position for 
three days, when the tank was eventually got out of her 
position. As a whole, the crew worked together well and 
cheerfully, but I would especially commend Corporal D — — 
for unfaihng cheerfulness and devotion to duty under very 
trying and disappointing circumstances. 

(Signed) C , 2nd Lieut., 

O.C. Tank D.9. 

Battle History ov Cbbw No. D.4. Tank No. 783. Date 23/4/17. 
Commanded by Lieutenant E 

Unit to which attached .... 50th Division (4th Bat- 

talion Yorka. Regt.). 

Hour the tank Btarted for action . . . 3.30 a.m. 

Hour of zero ...... 4.45 a.m. 

Extent and nature of hostile shell fire . . Shell fire heavy, practically 

no shrapnel. Machine- 
gun fire not excessive. 

Ammunition expended ..... Approximately 40 rounda 


Casualties ....... Nil. 

Position of tank after action .... 0.19.b.05 (approx.). 

Condition of tank after action . . . Unserviceable : both tracks 

broken, probably other 
damage from direct hits ; 
also on fire. 


Orders received. — To attack enemy strong point at 
O.lQ.a.OT as my first objective, then to proceed to banks in 
0.19.b. and return with the infantry until the Blue Line was 
consolidated, as my second objective. 

My third objective was to conform with an advance by 
the infantry at zero plus seven hours, and to attack a tangle 
of trenches in 0.21. a. & b. just in advance of the Red Line. 
It was eventually left to my decision as to the possibility 
of attempting this third objective. 

Report of action. — Advanced with infantry, but owing to 
heavy mist had great difficulty in following exact route. 
Reached first objective at 5.20 a.m., having approached it 
from the river side. Successfully dealt with several of the 
enemy on left bank of river, causing them to retire. Cruised 
about until joined by tank No. 522, D. 3. Then proceeded 
towards second objective. On the way I saw our infantry 
retiring, went ahead to stop enemy advance. Whilst going 

forward I saw Lieutenant F 's tank, which was then 

off its route. Lieutenant F — — came out of his tank and 
informed me that he had lost his way. I redirected him, 
and he then rejoined his tank. Almost immediately after 
this (approx. 6.30 a.m.) both tanks came under direct anti- 
tank gun and machine-gun fire. The latter was silenced 
by my left 6-pounder gun. I manoeuvred to present as 
small a target as possible to the former. The tank, however, 
received about six direct hits, which damaged both tracks, 
set alight the spare petrol carried in box in rear of tank, 
and possibly caused other serious damage. The whole crew 
succeeded in escaping from the tank unhurt. Position of 
tank as stated. 

I then returned to Coy. H.Q. and reported. 

(Signed) E , Lieut., 

O.C. Tank D.4. 

Battle History of Cbkw No. D.IO. Tank No. 784. Date 23/4/17. 


Unit to which attached .... 98th Infantry Brigade. 
Hour the tank started for action . . . 4.45 a.m. 
Hour of zero 4.45 a.m. 


Extent and nature of hostile ahell fire . . First three houra artillery 

fire not very heavy, but 
from then very heavy fire 
until rallying-point was 
reached. No direct fire 
by anti-tank guns. 

Ammunition expended . . . .290 rounds 6-poiander, re- 

mainder on tank could 
not be used owing to the 
shells sticking in shell 
casings on tank. Eight 
pans for Lewia-gun am- 

Casualties ....... Nil. 

Position of tank after action . . . Factory Croisilles, 12 noon. 

Condition of tank after action . . . Good — only reqtiired refill- 

ing and greasing. 

Orders received. — To advance from starting-point on British 
front line at T.4.b.4.5 to Hindenburg Line at point T.6.a.0.5, 
from which point infantry were to bomb along Hindenburg 
Line (front and support) to river Sensee at U.7.a.4.4. Tank 
to assist infantry and after objective at river taken to proceed 
to Croisilles. 

Report of action. — I started from starting-point at T.4i.b.4.5 
at zero, and made for Hindenburg wire at T.6.a.0.5, crossing 
same and getting into touch with our infantry, from whom 
I received report that they were held up by machine-guns 
along the trench. I proceeded to this point and cleared 
the obstacle. I then travelled parallel to the trench, knock- 
ing out machine-gun emplacements and snipers' posts all 
the way down to point U. I.e. 5.0. The infantry kept in 
touch all the way down, moving slightly in rear of tank, 
and after emplacements were knocked out they took the 
occupants prisoners. In two cases white flags were hoisted as 
soon as the emplacement was hit. The shooting was very 
good. Up to point U.l.c.5.0 the shelling had been casual, 
but when we reached the N. bank of the sunken road at 
this point and were firing into emplacements towards the 
river we were in full observation from the village and the 
artillery fire became very heavy. The supply of 6-pounder 
ammunition now became exhausted, and the ground on the 


S. side of sunken road being very bad, I decided to move 
back along the trench and then crossed the wire, and crossing 
sunken road at about T.12.b.5.3, made for rallying-point 
at Factory at Croisilles, where I arrived at 12 noon. I was 
shelled heavily all the way back to the rallying-point, but 
no damage was done. I was of opinion that the Hinden- 
burg front line was too bad (wide) to cross, and so could 
not deal with support line and was unable to observe this 
line from front line. I sent two pigeon messages at 9.30 a.m. 
and 12 noon. I had only one message clip, so had to fasten 
second message with cotton. 

(Signed) G , 2nd Lieut., 

O.C. TankD.lO. 

Battle History of Crew No. 9. Tank No. 716. Date 23/4/17. 

Commanded by 2nd Lieutenant H 

Unit to which attached . . 51st Division. 

Hour the tank started for action . . . 5.12 a.m. 

Hour of zero ...... 4.15 a.m. 

Extent and nature of hostile shell fire . . Severe. 

Ammunition expended .... About 220 6-povmder ; 14 

drums L.G. 
Casualties ....... Four. 

Position of tank after action . . . H.24.b.3.9. (Sheet 51B). 

Condition of tank after action . . . Bellied, right track very 


Orders received. — To clear Mount Pleasant wood, Roeux, 
and northern edge of village. 

Report of action. — Time allowed for tanks from deployment 
point to starting-point proved to be insufficient, which 
delayed my start some twenty minutes. Having learnt 
that the other car which was operating with me was " out 
of action," I made my way alone to the railway arch, where 
I was held up some few minutes owing to a number of 
stretcher cases which had to be removed, and a sand-bag 
barricade which I could not push down. 

I soon caught up the infantry, who were held up by machine- 
gun fire in Mount Pleasant wood. At their request I altered 
my course and made for the northern side of the wood 
running parallel with the trench which we held at the south 


of the wood, and which the enemy held at the north. I 
was told that a bombing party would follow me up the 

Having cleared this wood, I pushed on towards the village 
of Rceux, where I again met the infantry who had come 
round the other side of Mount Pleasant wood, where they 
were again held up by machine-gun fire which came from 
the buildings. 

Our barrage could only have been very slight, to judge 
from the comparatively small amount of damage which was 
done to the buildings. Here I used 200 rounds of 6-pounder 

It is difficult to estimate with any accuracy the number 
of machine-guns actually " put out." One of my best 
targets was a party of some thirty men whom we drove 
out of a house with 6-pounders, and then sprayed with 
Lewis-gun fire. 

I am sure that at least one 6-pounder shell dropped amongst 
these — this made a distinct impression. 

Another target that presented itself was a party of men 
coming towards us. I do not know whether they intended 
giving themselves up or whether they were a bombing party 
— I took them for the latter. 

Parties were frequently seen coming up from the rear, 
through gaps in the buildings. 

Twice an enemy officer rallied some dozen or so men and 
rushed a house that we had already cleared. Here again a 
6-pounder through the window disposed of any of the enemy 
remaining in the buildings. 

In regard to the machine-guns in the wood, we could 
only locate them by little puffs of smoke at which we fired 
our 6-pounders. We did not take our departure until these 
puffs had disappeared, and there was in consequence reason- 
able ground to suppose that the guns had been knocked out. 
Finally our infantry reached the village. Apparently there 
was no officer commanding our infantry in this part of the 
I then moved towards Roeux wood and learnt of a sniper 


still left in Mount Pleasant wood and a machine-gun, which 
was causing great trouble, on the railway embankment, 
and I then made my way back to the railway arch with a 
view to running parallel with the embankment towards the 
station, but unfortunately my car bellied in the very marshy 
ground by the canal. 

With regard to casualties, it is my opinion that I was in 
the district sufficiently long enough, some three hours, to 
enable the enemy to send for a supply of armour-piercing 
bullets. All four of my crew were hit whilst in the car. 

The Lewis-gun mountings were bad, many targets were lost 
owing to the time it took to mount the gun, and finally 
we mounted the gun through the front flaps. The flap of 
the present mounting does not rise high enough to clear the 

Both the 6-pounder guns worked splendidly, only giving 
one misfire the whole time. There was no hostile shelling 
of any kind in the village of Rceux or immediately in the 
district where I was operating, but the enemy barrage 
falling round the railway was of a very severe nature. When 
I found that it was impossible for me to proceed towards 
the railway station, I sent off a pigeon message at the request 
of an O.C. requesting that one of the cars operating in the 
Chemical Works district should be detailed to deal with 
the machine-gun on the embankment. 

I cannot speak too highly of the efficiency and general 
work of the crew. 

I have handed two German diaries, which came into my 
possession, to the Company Intelligence Officer. 

(Signed) H , 2nd Lieut., 

O.C. Tank No. 716. 



On account of the assistance rendered to the British infantry 
by tanks during the battle of the Somme a decision was 
arrived at in England to despatch a number of these machines 
to Egypt to assist our troops in the Sinai peninsula, especi- 
ally in the neighbourhood of El Arish, south of the Turkish 
frontier. The number originally decided on was twelve, 
but this was eventually cut down to eight, and, through an 
imfortunate error, old experimental machines were sent out 
instead of new ones as intended. 

The detachment, under the command of Major N. Nutt, 
consisted of 22 officers and 226 other ranks drawn from 
the original E Company, and together with its tanks, work- 
shops, and transport, it embarked at Devonport and Avon- 
mouth in December 1916, arriving in Egypt during the 
following month. 

Demonstrations and schemes were at once arranged for 
so that the staffs of the various fighting formations could 
witness what tanks were able to accomplish. These schemes 
were carried out on the sand dunes near Gilban, some ten 
miles north of Kantara on the Suez Canal. 

In February,' orders were suddenly received one day for 
the detachment to move with all possible speed to the fighting 
zone. This was carried out, and within three hours of 
receiving the orders the entire detachment, with tanks and 
accessories, had entrained at Gilban, and was speeding 
northwards towards the area of operations. Next day a 

1 Major O. A. Forsyth-Major (Second in Command of the Egyptian Tank 
Detachment), on whose report this chapter is based, lost all his documents 
and maps at sea in May 1918 when the ship on which he was returning to 
England was torpedoed and sunk, consequently some of the dates are 



delay occurred at El Arish, which the day previously had 
been captured by the Australians ; but, the same evening, 
the train proceeded to Rafa, a frontier town, which had 
only just been evacuated by the Turks, and early next 
morning reached Khan Yunus, some fifteen miles south-west 
of Gaza, an old Crusader stronghold surroimded by vast fig 
groves and other vegetation ; here the detachment remained 
for ten days. 

During this halt the First Battle of Gaza had come to an 
end, our troops having been obliged to retire and take up 
a position to the south of the town owing to the appearance 
of strong Turkish reinforcements from the direction of 
Beersheba; these threatened the British communications. 

Hostilities now ceased and preparations were begun for 
the Second Battle of Gaza, which was to prove one of the 
fiercest contests of the war in its eastern theatre. For this 
battle, early in March, the Tank Detachment moved from 
Khan Yunus to Deir el Belah. 

The Turkish Army at this period, numbering some 30,000 
men, was disposed along a sixteen-mile front extending 
from Gaza south-eastwards to Hareira and Shekia. The 
British plan of operations was as follows : 

The G.O.C. Desert Column was entrusted with the opera- 
tions against the Hareira front, protecting the right flank, 
whilst the task of seizing the important ridges of Sheikh 
Abbas and Mansara, both commanding Gaza and situated 
to the south of this town, was assigned to the 52nd, 53rd, and 
54th Divisions ; the 74th Division remaining in general 

The tanks of the detachment, which had been held in 
G.H.Q. reserve, were now allotted to divisions as follows : 

(i) 53rd Division, operating from the sea to the Cairo road, 
running through Romani trench : two tanks which were to be 
held in reserve until the infantry had advanced to the line — 
Red House-Tel El Ajjul-Money House-the coast. 

(ii) 52nd Division, operating from Kurd valley to Wadi 
El Nukhabir : four tanks to support the infantry attack 
on the Mansara ridge. 


(iii) 54th Division, operating on a front extending from 
500 yards west of Abbas ridge to the Gaza-Beersheba road : 
two tanks to support the infantry attack on the Sheikh 
Abbas ridge. 

Z day was to be April 17. Two days prior to this the 
eight tanks left Deir El Belah after dusk, two proceeding 
over the Druid ridge through St. James's Park, thence by 
Tel El Nujeid across the Wadi Ghuzze to Money hill ; four 
from Deir El Belah in an easterly direction through Picca- 
dilly Circus over the prominent ridge of In Seirat, then 
eastwards to Sheikh Nebhan on the Wadi Ghuzze ; two 
followed the same route as far as In Seirat, and from there 
made for a point south-east of Sheikh Nebhan. 

All eight tanks reached their positions of assembly before 
dawn without mishap and in good condition. Meanwhile 
ammunition and supply dumps had been established at 
various spots close to the Wadi Ghuzze. 

In the battle which now ensued the position of the tanks 
in relation to the infantry varied according to the nature 
of the ground and the resistance of the enemy. The attacks 
of the 53rd and 52nd Divisions came as a complete surprise, 
the two tanks allotted to the former moved to a position 
south of Money hill on the evening of the first day, and 
the four with the latter reached a point south of the Mansara 
ridge. None of these machines came into action as the 
Turks retired from their trenches and strongholds in complete 
confusion. On the 54th Division's front both of the tanks 
allotted to this Division came into action; one, however, 
received a direct hit and was destroyed, but the other did 
good work in clearing the enemy's trenches north-west of 
the Abbas ridge, kilhng many Turks and enabhng our infantry 
to occupy these defences. 

On the evening of April 17, the three attacking divisions 
entrenched themselves on the line running approximately 
from Marine View, on the coast, through Heart hill- Kurd 
hill-Mansara-Abbas, and thence south-east to Atawineh 
ridge. A pause of forty-eight hours now took place wherein 
to prepare for the second phase of the battle. 

1 ' 

I?*]" April 1917 & l=* November 1917. 



y^ y^^h^MhJTassarv 


Scale of Yards 


On the morning of April 19, this second phase opened. 
The AustraHan Corps, on the right flank, was to deliver an 
attack on the eastern defences of Gaza, whilst the 52nd, 
53rd, and 54th Divisions were to constitute the main attack, 
and to advance on a line running from the coast to the 
stronghold of Ah El Muntar. Battleships were to co-operate 
in this attack. 

Tanks were allotted to Divisions as follows : 

(i) 53rd Division, objective — ;Mazar trench to Sheikh 
Redwam ; one tank to assist in the capture of Sampson 
ridge. El Arish and Sheikh Redwam redoubts, and one 
tank to operate against Sheikh Ajlin, Belah-Yunus-Rafa- 
Zowaiid-El Burs trenches and to await further orders at 
El Arish trench. 

(ii) 52nd Division, objective — the enemy's trenches from 
Queen's hill to Ali El Muntar. For this operation four 
tanks were allotted, and their objectives, which were Outpost 
hill, the Labyrinth, the Warren and Ali El Muntar, were 
changed during the night of the 18th-19th. This resulted 
in considerable confusion. According to the change one 
tank was to precede the assault on Green hill, one to clear 
Lees hill and Outpost hill, and the remaining two to be 
kept in reserve at Kurd hill. 

(iii) 54th Division, objective — Kirbet El Sihan and El 
Sire-Ali El Muntar ridge as far as Australia hill ; one tank 
to seize the redoubt west of Kirbet El Sihan. 

From the above it will be seen a good deal was expected 
of the tanks, in fact these seven machines were to tackle 
a problem which in France would have been considered dis- 
tinctly formidable for two complete battalions. 

Of the two tanks with the 53rd Division one broke its 
track, consequently the other — the Tiger — led the advance 
alone and drove the enemy from Sampson ridge, which was 
then occupied by our infantry ; it then proceeded to El 
Arish redoubt, but, the infantry being unable to follow, 
after six hours' action, during which it fired 27,000 rounds 
of S.A.A., it withdrew to Regent's Park, all its crew having 
been wounded. On the front of the 52nd Division a desperate 


battle took place : the tank operating against Lees hill 
and Outpost hill fell into a gully, the sides of which unex- 
pectedly collapsed. Its place was taken by the tank detailed 
for Green hill ; Outpost hill was reached and cleared, when 
this machine received a direct hit. 

The enemy's machine-gun fire was now intense, so one of 
the reserve tanks was ordered up. After desperate losses 
the infantry eventually captured the hill, only to be driven 
off it by a counter-attack ; they then withdrew to a line 
passing east and west through Queen's hill, the reserve tank 
withdrawing at the same time to Kurd hill. In the attack 
dehvered by the remaining division, the 54th, no better 
luck was experienced. The one machine working with this 
division moved on the great redoubt north-west of Kirbet 
El Sihan, and reaching this work the Turkish garrison surren- 
dered. The infantry then took over the position. Shortly 
after this a direct hit broke one of the tracks of this tank, 
and a counter-attack eventually resulted in its capture 
with the infantry who had occupied the redoubt. 

In spite of the fact that this battle was unsuccessful, the 
work carried out by the Tank Detachment constitutes a 
remarkable feat of arms. The tanks engaged were Mark I's 
and II's, which, by the time the battle was ended, had each 
covered on an average some 40 miles of country. Recon- 
naissance, due to want of time, was practically non-existent, 
and the limitations of the tank were not understood by the 
infantry commanders, who expected miracles from a far 
from perfect machine. The objectives allotted were not 
only difficult, but too numerous, yet in spite of this the 
protection which these eight tanks afforded the attacking 
infantry on a five-mile frontage was considerable and fully 
appreciated ; it was, however, quite inadequate on account 
of the hundreds of ingeniously hidden machine-guns, to 
which the Turks mainly owed their victory. 



The foundations of the success or non-success of a battle 
rest on its organisation, that is, on the preparations made 
for it. This is the duty of the General and Administrative 
Staffs of an Army or Formation and usually entails an 
immense amount of careful work. The fact that success 
depends as much, if not more, on organisation (brain power) 
as on valour (nerve power) is not generally recognised, 
and many an officer and man in the firing line is, through 
ignorance of the causes and effects which are operating 
behind, only too prone to forget what the staff is doing, 
and, never more so, what the staff has done than after a 
really great victory has been gained. 

The more scientific weapons become the more will good 
staff work decide whether their use is going to lead to 
victory or defeat. This was very early realised in the Tank 
Corps, and every endeavour was made by its commander 
and his subordinate leaders to select only the most capable 
officers for their respective staffs ; this resulted in ability 
more often than seniority deciding the filling of an appoint- 

The work of the Staff of the Tank Corps was often con- 
siderably complicated by the fact that, the tank being a 
novel weapon of war, it was little understood, not only by 
the other arms, but by many members of the Tank Corps 
itself. This resulted in a great deal of educational work 
being required before many measures, very obvious to the 
Staff itself, were accepted by others. In the early days 
of the Corps the tank was generally placed by the other 
arms under one of two categories — a miracle or a joke, 
and this did not tend to facilitate or expedite preparations. 



The main duty of the General Staff is to foresee by thinking 
ahead, of the Administrative Staff to prepare, of the Com- 
mander to decide, and of his troops to act. These four hnks 
go to build up a battle, and if any one of them is defective, 
the whole chain is weak. On the power of thinking ahead, 
that is, foreseeing conditions and events, will depend all 
preparations. Decisions cannot with safety be simply 
based on former experiences, codified and printed rules 
and regulations ; if this were possible every intelUgent 
subaltern with a good memory or a big pocket could become 
a Napoleon ' in six weeks. Decisions must be based on 
weapons and men moved in accordance with the principles 
of war as governed by conditions existing and possible. 
Possible conditions cannot be guessed at; if they could the 
planchet board and not the baton would be the emblem 
of a field-marshal's worth. Possible conditions can only 
be guarded against or converted into allies by being prepared 
to meet all eventualities, and these preparations in a for- 
mation such as the Tank Corps were at first prodigious. 
Little by little, however, • the knack of mechanical warfare 
was cultivated, and then what had at first appeared a moun- 
tain eventually turned out to be a molehill — a good sprink- 
ling of molehills, and not a few mountains, however, remained 
over even to the last. 

In the training schemes carried out before the battle of 
Arras, as mentioned in Chapter VII, no fewer than 132 headings 
of various measures, all relative to the preparations requisite 
for an offensive with tanks, were laid down. After this battle 
this number was considerably increased and continued to grow 
as each engagement added new experiences to the old ones. 

The main preparations required for an offensive are the 
following : (1) Movements, (2) Reconnaissances, (3) Secrecy, 
(4) Supply, (5) Communication, (6) Assembly, (7) Tactics, 
(8) Reorganisation. 

Tank movements generally fall under the headings of rail 

1 " It ia not some familiax spirit which suddenly and secretly discloses 
tome what I have to say or do in a case unexpected by others ; it is reflexion, 
meditation." — ^Napolbon. 


movements and cross-country movements. As regards the 
former it must be remembered that the tank cannot at 
present move over lengthy distances under its own power. 
A Mark I tank on good going could not be relied on to run 
more than 12 miles on a fill of petrol, and after it had com- 
pleted about 70 miles it had to be overhauled and many of 
its parts renewed. Rail movements require special trucks, 
and, in the early days of the Corps, special sidings and 
entraining ramps. As regards the latter, cross-covmtry 
routes should be reconnoitred beforehand. It will be remem- 
bered how on the night of April 8-9, the night previous to 
the first day of the battle of Arras, six tanks became ditched 
at Achicourt on account of a bog existing under the hard 
surface of the ground. Had the officer reconnoitring this 
route tested the ground along the valley by pushing a stick 
into it, this accident would not have occurred, for the stick 
would have penetrated the crust and informed him of the 
nature of the soil below it. 

Before any move takes place from the position of assembly, 
near railhead, to the starting-points, the points whence the 
tanks will proceed into battle, the following are a few of 
the subjects that a Tank Unit Commander will have to 
consider : — Objectives ; strong-points ; machine-gun em- 
placements ; batteries ; trenches ; wire ; infantry lines of 
advance ; minimum number of tanks required for the main 
objectives ; minimum of tanks required for subsidiary 
objectives ; nature of ground and its probable condition at 
zero hour ; where ground, soil, natural features and hostile 
batteries will chiefly impede tank movements ; the lines of 
least resistance for tanks through the enemy's lines to the 
main objectives and the points of greatest resistance to the 
infantry advance ; landmarks ; starting points with refer- 
ence to lines of least resistance ; positions of deployment 
with reference to starting-points ; tank routes from positions 
of assembly to the positions of deployment and thence to 
the starting-points ; any places on these tank routes where 
delays are hkely to occur ; rallying points ; supply dumps ; 
communication, etc., etc. 


So in turn must each move or preparatory measure be 
dealt with, reconnaissance playing an all-important part, 
not only before the battle, but during it, and immediately 
after it, and if the system of communication during the battle 
is not efficient the work of the reconnaissance officer will 
frequently be wasted, so we find one preparation depending 
for its worth on another until the whole forms a complete 
and somewhat intricate chain. 

Imagine now, when this chain is nearing completion what 
it means to it if some new plan be evolved, or a change be 
introduced or forced on to a scheme of operations — its effect 
will frequently have to be carried right down the chain, and 
this will not only mean new work being done, but old work 
being undone. Take the following as an example : a bat- 
talion of tanks is to detrain at A, a few days later it is ordered 
to detrain at B instead ; this will probably entail shifting 
20,000 gallons of petrol, 12,000 6-pounder shells, 300,000 
rounds of S.A.A., and countless other stores. It is these 
changes in operations which a good Staff guards its troops 
against by foresight ; this being so, the efficiency of a Staff 
may usually be gauged by' the number of amendments a 
Commander issues to his orders. 

Another important duty of the Staff is to assist the troops 
when the period of preparation ends and action begins, and 
further still to watch closely every action so that changes 
may be foreseen and preparations may be improved on the 
next occasion. These duties are called " Battle Liaison," a 
duty which was impressed upon every General Staff Officer 
in the Tank Corps as the most important he would be called 
upon to carry out. At every battle from that of the Ancre 
onwards, the majority of the headquarters' General Staff 
Officers were present on the battlefield itself, not after the 
fight had swept on but before it opened and whilst it lasted. 
Each night these officers would report to their headquarters 
not only what they had heard but what they had seen, a 
much more rehable source of evidence. The result of this 
system was that when the crash came on March 21, 1918, 
though the Tank Corps was spHt up over a front of 60 miles. 


and in many places complete confusion followed the German 
attack, not once from that day on to the end of the battle 
did the headquarters of the Tank Corps lack information 
regarding the position of all its units. This may be chronicled 
as a notable "feat of staff work," and certainly as useful as 
many a much more spectacular " feat of arms." It is for 
this type of staff work that Staff Officers are sometimes 



The situation at the end of April 1917 was a difficult one 
for the Allies. The failure to penetrate the Drocourt-Queant 
line had rendered the whole plan of the British attack east 
of Arras abortive ; this was bad enough, but indeed a minor 
incident when compared with the failure of the great French 
attack in Champagne. It was towards making good this failure 
that the rest of the year's operations had to be directed. 

The ambitious plan of cutting off the Arras-Soissons- 
Reims salient having failed, the next blow was to be directed 
against the German right flank. The object of this attack 
was to drive this flank back sufficiently far to deprive 
the Germans of the coast line between Nieuport and the 
Dutch frontier, and to render their position about Lille 
sufficiently insecure to force them to evacuate it and so 
open the road to Antwerp and Brussels. 

The possibility of such an operation as this had long been 
contemplated, and, as early as the summer of 1916, prepara- 
tions for it had been taken in hand by the British Second 
Army. By May 1917 these were completed, including the 
construction of an extensive system of railways in the Ypres 
area and the mining of most of the western flank of the 
Messines-Wytschaete ridge. 

The operation was to be divided into two main phases, 
firstly the taking of the Messines-Wytschaete ridge so as to 
secure the right flank of the second phase and to deny 
the enemy important points of observation, and secondly the 
attack north of this ridge with the object of occupying the 
coast line and of pushing forward towards Ghent. The first 
phase constituted the battle of Messines, the subject of 
this chapter, and the second the Third Battle of Ypres. 



It had been foreseen early in the year that such an attack 
was possible, and that in all probability tanks would be 
called upon to take part in it, consequently, as early as 
March 1917, reconnaissances of the whole of the Ypres area 
had been taken in hand by the Heavy Branch. In April 
this surmise proved correct, and the 2nd Brigade, consisting 
of A and B Battalions, was selected for this operation. In 
May these two battalions were equipped with thirty-six 
Mark IV tanks each. 

Railheads were selected at Ouderdom and at Clapham 
Junction (one mile south of Dranoutre), and though they 
were within the shelled area, they fulfilled most of the require- 
ments demanded of a tank railhead. Advanced parties 
began arriving at these stations on May 14, and between 
May 23 and 27, A and B Battahons followed them. Supply 
dumps were then formed, and arrangements were made to 
carry forward one complete fill for all tanks operating by 
means of Supply Tanks, which were first used in this battle. 
These tanks consisted of discarded Mark I machines with 
specially made supply sponsons fitted to them. 

The positions of assembly were selected quite close to 
railheads, B Battalion tanks being hidden away in a wood, 
and A Battalion's in specially built shelters representing huts. 
The spoor left by the tanks, as they moved to these positions, 
was obliterated by means of harrows so that no enemy's 
aeroplane happening to cross over our lines this way would 
notice anything suspicious on the ground. 

The object of the Second Army's operations was firstly 
to capture the Messines-Wytschaete ridge and secondly to 
capture the Oosttaverne line, a line of trenches running 
north and south a mile to a mile and a half east of the ridge. 
Three Corps were to participate in this attack — the Xth 
and IXth Corps, and the Ilnd Anzac Corps. To these Corps 
tanks were allotted as follows : 12 tanks to the Xth Corps, 
28 tanks to the IXth Corps, 16 for the ridge, and 12 for 
the Oosttaverne line, and 32 tanks to the Ilnd Anzac Corps, 
20 for the ridge and 12 for the Oosttaverne line. Each 
battalion had two spare tanks and 6 supply tanks. The 

June 7'i' 1917. 

I I I I I 1 M I 

Scale of Yards 


and 40 minutes, having engaged an enemy's machine-gun 
on the way. Another tank, rather aptly named the 
" Wytschaete Express," led the infantry into the village of 
Wytschaete and helped to persuade the Germans defending 
it to surrender, which they did in large numbers. 

At 10.30 a.m. the 24 reserve tanks were moved up to 
points behind our original front line, and 22 of these started 
with the infantry at 3. 10 p.m. in the attack on the Oosttaverne 
hne, which constituted the final objective. During this 
phase of the battle the tanks rendered very great assistance 
to the infantry by occupying the ground beyond the 
Oosttaverne line before the infantry arrived, and so dis- 
organising the enemy's defence. 

At a place named Joye farm an interesting incident 
occurred. Two tanks became ditched here, but, in spite of 
this and approaching darkness, these machines were in a 
position to repel any hostile counter-attack coming up the 
Wambeke valley, so it was decided to stand by in the tanks 
and resume unditching work at daybreak. 

At about 4 a.m. unditching was started again, and one 
tank was got out successfully, but unfortunately broke its 
track soon afterwards in trying to cross the railway to advance 
against an enemy's counter-attack which was developing. 
An hour later the enemy was observed to be massing in the 
Wambeke valley. The position of the tanks only allowed 
of a pair of 6-pounders being trained in the direction of the 
enemy, so the remainder of the crews, under their officers, 
took up positions in shell-holes with their Lewis guns. Word 
was sent to the infantry to warn them and ask for co-opera- 
tion, and on a reply being received that they were short 
of Lewis-gun ammunition, some was supplied to them from 
the tanks. 

From 6.30 a.m. onwards the enemy made repeated attempts 
to advance, shooting at the tanks with a large number of 
armour-piercing bullets which failed to penetrate. They 
were driven off in every case with heavy casualties, until 
at 11.30 a.m. our artillery barrage opened and dispersed 


The battle of Messines, one of the shortest and best 
mounted hmited operations of the war, was in no sense a 
tank battle. Tanks took but a small part in it, except in 
its final stages, nevertheless many useful lessons were learnt, 
the chief of which were : the necessity of some special form 
of unditching gear ; the advisability of selecting starting- 
points well behind our front line (in this battle they were 
chosen too close behind it, with the result that as it was still 
dark at zero hour several tanks got ditched in " No Man's 
Land"); the advisability of selecting rallying-points well 
behind objectives, so that when tanks have finished their 
work their crews may gain as much rest as possible. 



The battle of Messines may be looked upon as the high- 
water mark of the artillery attack, which was first developed 
by the British Army during the battle of the Somme. The 
time, however, was approaching when a change of tactics 
became imperative on account of the enemy having learnt 
his lesson. To appreciate what this question involves is of 
some interest, especially so, as in the tank was eventually 
discovered a means of overcoming the counter-measures 
now adopted by the enemy. ^ 

The main characteristic which differentiates the German 
defensive tactics of 1917 from those of 1916 would appear 
to lie in the grouping of their men rather than in the siting 
of their trenches. 

In 1916 the major portion of the German Army was 
placed in the frontal defensive belt because security was 
sought for in the maintenance of an unbroken front. In 
1917, however, this security was more economically guaran- 
teed by holding behind this front, instead of in it, a large 
reserve which could strike at any opponent who broke 

This reversion to the " big idea " and the abandonment 
of the smaller one, namely, that war is a " series of local 
emergency measures," placed a further difficulty in the way 
of the attacker. In 1917 it was no longer a question of 
breaking through a defensive line as in 1914, or a zone of 
defences as in 1915 and 1916, but of exhausting the enemy's 

* This chapter is extracted from a project submitted by Headquarters 
Tank Corps on June 11, 1917. It correctly visualised the Third Battle of 
Ypres, and the German artillery tactics adopted during it. 



reserves before undertaking either of these operations with 
decisive effect. 

This could now only be accompKshed by hitting the enemy 
at a point which he must hold on to because of its importance 
or of surprising him at points where he did not expect to 
be attacked. If such points were not selected all he need 
do was to fall back as he had already done in March, and so 
dislocate our operations, by temporarily denying us the 
use of our guns. 

As hitherto, the change we have always most carefully to 
watch for is any change the enemy is likely to carry out 
in his artillery tactics, and the following is apparently what 
the German was now doing. 

Having learnt in 1916 and the first half of 1917 that if 
the attacker makes up his mind to do it, he can carry, by 
means of artillery and infantry alone, several lines of trenches 
in one bound, it stood to reason that the German General 
Staff would not continue to jeopardise its artillery by so 
placing it that it could be pounded to pieces during our pre- 
liminary bombardment. 

If now the Germans withdrew their guns further back to 
a position from which, though they cannot cover their 
front-line system, they can cover their second or third lines 
and simultaneously be immune, or to a great extent immune 
from our counter-battery fire, by accepting the loss of a 
small belt of ground they would place our attacking in- 
fantry in such a position that whilst it feels the full effect 
of their artillery, it is receiving next to no protection from 
its own. 

The construction of their defensive systems in 1917 did 
not altogether lend itself to these tactics, the systems were 
too close together ; but should these distances be enlarged 
the disadvantage to the attacker becomes apparent ; and 
there were already signs that the Germans were fully aware 
of the advantage of this enlargement. At Arras they had 
been surprised in spite of the lengthy bombardment and 
they lost over 200 guns, at Messines they lost 67, and later 
on at Ypres only 25, on the first day of each attack. They 



were, in fact, countering by gun fire the exploitation of 
a penetration. This system of tactics can be graphically 
illustrated as follows (see Diagram 16). 

Suppose that AB be the German front-line system, and 
that CD, their second line, be so placed that the German 
guns at E can heavily shell the whole of CD, and yet, on 
account of the distance away, remain practically immune 
from our guns at F. Suppose also that the area ABCD 
is strongly wired and well sprinkled with machine guns, 
who is going to suffer most — ^the attackers from GH, who 

Direction, of 


Limit Field Guns 

Limit Heavy Guns 

Limit Field Guns 

Limit Heavy Guns 

H B D 


will not only be perpetually worried by the machine guns 
and sharpshooters in ABCD, but who will come more 
and more under the enemy's gun fire as they proceed to- 
wards CD, or the enemy's machine gunners occupying 
ABCD, and his infantry in dug-outs along CD ? Un- 
doubtedly the former, for they present the largest target, 
and against them is being thrown the greater number of 
projectiles. Suppose now the attackers capture CD, then 
at best they will only be able to remain there as impassive 
spectators to their own destruction until such time as the 
guns at F move forward, which, on account of the " crumped 
area," ABCD, will take many days. This is probably 


what would have happened had the Second Army been 
required to push the attack from the Oosttaverne hne to- 
wards Wervicq. 

Except for an attack on an objective of very Umited depth 
the artillery attack was almost doomed to fail on account 
of slowness of moving forward the guns, due to the de- 
struction of roads and terrain during the initial bombardment. 
Bearing the above possibilities in mind, it was with some 
apprehension that the Heavy Branch watched the approach 
of the next great battle, for though the " crumped " area 
could, if dry, be crossed by tanks, whatever service they 
might afford would be rendered useless on account of the 
impossibility of keeping the attacking infantry supplied ; 
to do so, fleets of supply tanks would be required, and these 
did not exist. 



Towards the middle of May it was decided that all three 
Brigades of Tanks, that is, the whole Heavy Branch, should 
take part in the forthcoming operations of the Fifth Army 
east of Ypres, and that two of these brigades should assemble 
in Oosthoek wood and the third at Ouderdom. To initiate 
preparations an advanced headquarters was opened at 
Poperinghe early in June, and on the 22nd of this month 
the brigade advanced parties moved to the Ypres area. 

After the battle of Messines, the 2nd Brigade (A and B 
Battalions) had assembled at Ouderdom, so the present 
concentration only involved moving the 1st Brigade (D and 
G Battalions), and the 3rd Brigade (F and C Battalions) to 
Oosthoek. Seven trains were required for each of these 

At about this time it was decided that the 1st Brigade 
should be allotted to the XVIIIth Corps, the 3rd Brigade 
to the XlXth Corps, and the 2nd Brigade to the Ilnd Corps ; 
brigade commanders were, therefore, instructed to place 
themselves in touch with these corps and commence pre- 

The preparations required varied considerably from those 
for former battles. The Ypres-Comines canal, running 
parallel to the front of attack, formed a considerable obstacle 
to tank movement ; consequently, causeways had to be 
built over the canal as well as over the Kemmelbeek and the 
Lombartbeek. This work was carried out by the 184th Tun- 
nelling Company, which was attached to the Heavy Branch 
for the purpose. The work this unit carried out, normally 
under severe shell fire, was most efficient and praiseworthy. 
Besides the building of these causeways and the usual supply 
preparations, thoroughly efficient signalling communication 



was arranged for, including the use of a certain number of 
tanks fitted with wireless installations.' 

The reconnaissance work of the battalions was greatly 
facilitated by that already carried out by the advanced 
headquarters party. Oblique aerial photographs were pro- 
vided for each tank commander, and plasticine models of 
every part of the eventual battle area were carefully pre- 
pared, the shelled zone being stencilled on them as the 
bombardment proceeded. To facilitate the movement of 
tanks over the battlefield a new system was made use of 
by which a list of compass bearings from well-defined points 
to a number of features in the enemy's territory was pre- 
pared, thus enabling direction to be picked up easily. The 
distribution of information was more rapid than it had been 
on previous occasions. Constant discussions between the 
Brigade and Battalion Reconnaissance officers led to a 
complete liaison ; in fact, everything possible was done to 
make the tank operations a success ; further, there was ample 
time to do it in. 

The Fifth Army attack was to be carried out on well 
recognised lines ,• namely, a lengthy artillery preparation 
followed by an infantry attack on a large scale and infantry 
exploitation until resistance became severe, when the ad- 
vance would be halted and a further organised attack pre- 
pared on the same scale. This methodical progression was 
to be continued until the exhaustion of the German reserves ' 
and moral created a situation which would enable a com- 
plete break-through to be effected. 

The number of tanks allotted to the three attacking Corps 
was as follows : seventy-two to each of the Ilnd and XlXth 
Corps, thirty-six to the XVIIIth, and thirty-six to be held 
in Army reserve. These were subdivided according to 
objectives, namely : 

Una Corps. XlXth Corps. XVmth Oorpa. 
Black Line . . . 16 tanks 24 tanks 12 tanks 

Green Line . . *. 24 „ 24 „ 12 „ 

East of Green Line . 8 „ 

Corps Reserve . . 24 ,, 24 ,, 12 ,, 

1 At this time the German reserves totaHed about 750,000 men. 


The Corps objectives and the allotment of tanks to Divi- 
sions were as follows : 

In the Ilnd Corps the 24th and 30th Divisions supported 
by the 18th Division were to attack on the right, and the 
8th Division, supported by the 25th Division, on the left. 
The general objective of the operations was the capture of 
the Broodseinde ridge, and the protection of the right flank 
of the Fifth Army. The allotment of tanks to Divisions 
was : twelve to the 30th Division, eight to the 18th Divi- 
sion, twenty-four to the 8th Division, and four to the 24th 

In the XlXth Corps the 15th Division was on the right and 
the 55th Division on the left, with the 16th and 36th Divi- 
sions in reserve. The objective of this Corps was to capture 
and hold a section of the enemy's third-line system known as 
the Gheluvelt-Langemarck line. Twenty-four tanks were 
allotted to each of the attacking divisions. 

In the XVIIIth Corps the 39th Division was on the right 
and the 51st Division on the left, with the 11th and 48th 
Division in reserve. The main objective was the Green Line ; 
but should this be successfully occupied the 51st Division 
was to seize the crossings of the river Steenbeek at Mon du 
Rasta and the Military Road, and establish a line beyond 
that river from which a further advance could be made on 
to the Gheluvelt-Langemarck line ; the 39th Division on 
the left conforming by throwing out posts beyond the Green 
Line. Eight tanks were allotted to the 51st Division and 
sixteen to the 39th Division. 

The dead level of Northern Flanders is broken by one 
solitary chain of hills, a crescent in shape, with its cusps 
as Cassel and Dixmude. From Cassel to Kemmel hill had 
been ours since 1914 ; to this the Messines-Wytschaete ridge 
was added, as we have seen in June 1917 ; now all that 
remained was the extension of this ridge northwards from 
about Hooge to Dixmude. The territory lying within the 
crescent was practically all reclaimed swamp land, including 
Ypres and reaching back as far as to St. Omer, both of 
which, a few hundred years ago, were seaports. All agri- 


culture in this area depended on careful drainage, the water 
being carried away by innumerable dikes. So important was 
the maintenance of this drainage system considered that in 
normal times a Belgian farmer who allowed his dikes to fall 
into disrepair was heavily fined. 

The frontage of attack of the Fifth Army extended from 
the Ypres-Comines canal to Wiltje cabaret. On the left the 
French were co-operating, attacking towards Houthulst 
forest, and on the right the Second Army was restricted to 
an all but passive artillery r61e. This frontage was flanked 
by two strong positions, the Polygonveld and Houthulst 
forest, which formed two bastions with a semicircular ridge 
of ground as a curtain between them; in front of this low 
curtain ran a broad moat — the valley of the Steenbeek and 
its small tributaries. 

From the tank point of view the Third Battle of Ypres 
is a complete study of how toi. move thirty tons of metal 
through a morass of mud and water. The area east of the 
canal had, through neglect and daily shell fire, been getting 
steadily worse since 1914, but as late as June 1917 it was 
still sufficiently well drained to be negotiable throughout, 
by the end of July it had practically reverted to its primal 
condition of a vast swamp ; this was due to the intensity 
of our artillery fire. 

It must be remembered at this time the only means 
accepted whereby to initiate a battle was a prolonged artil- 
lery bombardment ; sufficient reliance not as yet being 
placed in tanks on account of their liability to break down. ' 
The present battle was preceded by the longest bombard- 
ment ever carried out by the British Army, eight days 
counter-battery work being followed by sixteen days intense 
bombardment. The effect of this cannonade was to destroy 
the drainage system and to produce water in the shell-holes 
formed even before the rain fell. Slight showers fell on the 
29th and 30th, and a heavy storm of rain on July 31. 

A study of the ground on the fronts of the three attacking 

I BreakdowiiB in the past had for the most part been due to bad ground, 
not defective mechanism. 


July to November 1917. 

Scale of Yards 

2000 3000 

4000 5000 6000 7000 


corps is interesting. On the Ilnd Corps front the ground 
was broken by swamps and woods, only three approaches 
were possible for tanks, and these formed dangerous defiles. 
On the XlXth Corps front the valley of the Steenbeek was 
in a terrible condition, innumerable shell-holes and puddles 
of water existed, the drainage of the Steenbeek having been 
seriously ai^ected by the shelling. On that of the XVIIIth 
Corps front the ground between our front line and the Steen- 
beek was cut up and sodden. The Steenbeek itself was a 
difficult obstacle, and could scarcely have been negotiated 
without the new unditching gear which had been produced 
since the battle of Messines. The only good crossing was at 
St. Julien, and this formed a dangerous defile. 

Zero hour was at 3.50 a.m., and it was still dark when the 
tanks, which had by July 31 assembled east of the canal, 
moved forward behind the attacking infantry. 

Briefly, the attack on July 31, in spite of the fact that 
there are fifty-one recorded occasions upon which individual 
tanks assisted the infantry, may be classed as a failure. On 
the Ilnd Corps front, because of the bad going, the tanks 
arrived late, and owing to the infantry being hung up, they 
were caught in the defiles by hostile artillery fire and suffered 
considerable casualties in the neighbourhood of Hooge. 
They undoubtedly drew heavy shell fire away from the 
infantry, but the enemy appeared to be ready to deal with 
them as soon as they reached certain localities and knocked 
them out one by one. On the XlXth Corps front they were 
more successful. At the assault on the Frezenberg redoubt 
they rendered the greatest assistance to the infantry, who 
would have suffered severely had not tanks come to their 
rescue. Several enemy's counter-attacks were broken by 
the tanks, and Spree farm, Capricorn keep, and Bank farm 
were reduced with their assistance. On the XVIIIth Corps 
front at Enghsh trees and Macdonald's wood several machine 
guns were silenced ; the arrival of a tank at Ferdinand's farm 
caused the enemy to evacuate the right bank of the Steen- 
beek in this neighbourhood. The attack on St. Julien and 
Alberta would have cost the infantry heavy casualties had 


not two tanks come up at the critical naoment and rendered 
assistance. At Alberta strong wire still existed, and this 
farm was defended by concrete machine-gun emplacements 
with good dug-outs. The two tanks which arrived here 
went forward through our own protective barrage, rolled 
flat the wire and attacked the ruins by opening fire at very 
close range, with the result that the enemy was driven into 
his dug-outs and was a little later on taken prisoner by our 

The main lessons learnt from this day's fighting were — 
the unsuitability of the Mark IV tank to swamp warfare ; 
the danger of attempting to move tanks through defiles 
which are swept by hostile artillery fire ; the necessity for 
immediate infantry co-operation whenever the presence of 
a tank forced an opening, and the continued moral effect of 
the tank on both the enemy and our own troops. 

The next attack in which tanks took part was on 
August 19, and in spite of the appalling condition of the 
gromid, for it had now been steadily raining for three weeks, 
a very memorable feat of arms was accomplished. The 48th 
Division of the XVIIIth Corps had been ordered to execute 
an attack against certain strongly defended works, and, as 
it was reckoned that this attack might cost in casualties from 
600 to 1,000 men, it was decided to make it a tank opera- 
tion in spite of the fact that the tanks would have to work 
along the remains of the roads in place of over the open 
country. Four tanks were detailed to operate against 
Hillock farm. Triangle farm, Mon du Hibou, and the Cock- 
croft ; four against Winnipeg cemetery, Springfield, and 
Vancouver, and four to be kept in reserve at California 
trench. The operation was to be covered by a smoke bar- 
rage, and the infantry were to follow the tanks and make 
good the strong points captured. 

Eleven tanks entered St. Julien at 4.45 a.m., three ditched, 
and eight emerged on the St. Julien-Poelcappelle road, when 
down came the smoke barrage, throwing a complete cloud 
on the far side of the objectives ; at 6 a.'m. Hillock farm was 
occupied, at 6.15 a.m. Mon du Hibou was reduced, and five 






minutes later the garrison of Triangle farm, putting up a 
fight, were bayoneted. Thus one point after another was 
captured, the tanks driving the garrisons underground or 
away, and the infantry following and making good what the 
tanks had made possible. In this action the most remark- 
able results were obtained at very little cost, for instead of 
600 casualties the infantry following the tanks only sustained 
fifteen ! 

From this date on to October 9 tanks took part in eleven 
further actions, the majority being fought on the XVIIIth 
Corps front by the 1st Tank Brigade. On August 22 a 
particularly plucky fight was put up by a single tank. This 
machine became ditched in the vicinity of a strong point 
called Gallipoli, and, for sixty-eight hours on end, fought the 
enemy, breaking up several counter-attacks ; eventually the 
crew, running short of ammunition, withdrew to our own lines 
on the night of August 24-25. 

Of the -attacks which were made with tanks in the latter 
half of September and the beginning of October, the majority 
took place along the Poelcappelle road, the most successful 
being fought on October 4. Of this attack the XVIIIth 
Corps Commander reported that " the tanks in Poelcappelle 
were a decisive factor in our success on the left flank " ; and 
their moral effect on the enemy was illustrated by the state- 
ment of a captured German officer who gave as the reason 
of his surrender — " There were tanks — so my company sur- 
rendered — I also." 

It is almost impossible to give any idea of the difficulty of 
these latter operations or of the " grit " required to carry 
them out. Roads, if they could be called by such a name 
at all, were few and far between in the salient caused by the 
repeated attacks during the battle. This salient had a base 
of some 20,000 yards and was only 8,000 deep at the begin- 
ning of October, at which date the enemy could still obtain 
extensive observation over it from the Passchendaele ridge. 
The ground in between these roads being impassable swamps, 
all movement had to proceed along them, consequently they 
formed standing targets for the German gunners to direct 


their fire on. One night, at about this period of the battle, a 
tank engineer officer was instructed to proceed to Poelcap- 
pelle to superintend the demohtion of some tanks which 
were blocking the road near the western entrance to the 
village. His description of it at night-time is worth 

" I left St. Julien in the dark, having been informed that 
our guns were not going to fire. I waded up the road, which 
was swimming in a foot or two of slush, frequently I would 
stumble into a shell-hole hidden by the mud. The road was 
a complete shambles and strewn with debris, broken vehicles, 
dead and dying horses and men. I must have passed hun- 
dreds of them as well as bits of men and animals littered 
everywhere. As I neared Poelcappelle out guns started to 
fire : at once the Germans replied, pouring shells on and 
around the road, the flashes of the bursting shells were all 
round me. I cannot describe what it felt like, the nearest 
approach of a picture I can give is that it was like standing 
in the centre of the flame of a gigantic Primus stove. As I 
neared the derelict tanks, the scene became truly appalling : 
wounded men lay drowned in the mud, others were stumbling 
and falling through exhaustion, others crawled and rested 
themselves up against the dead to raise themselves a little 
above the slush. On reaching the tanks I found them sur- 
rounded by the dead and dying ; men had crawled to them 
for what shelter they would afford. The nearest tank was 
a female, her left sponson doors were open, out of these 
protruded four pairs of legs, exhausted and wounded men 
had sought refuge in this machine, and dead and dying lay 
in a jumbled heap inside." 

Whatever history may record of the Third Battle of 
Ypres, one fact certainly will not be overlooked or forgotten, 
namely : that men who could continue for three months to 
attack under the conditions which characterised this most 
terrible battle of the war must indeed belong to an invincible 



The organisation of the " mechanical engineering " side of 
the Tank Corps constituted the backbone of the whole 
formation, for on its efficiency depended the efficiency of 
the fighting units in as high a degree as the fighting efficiency 
of a cavalry regiment depends on its horse-mastership. 

In this chapter it is not intended to follow the growth of 
this organisation in detail, but rather to look back on its 
evolution as a whole, and then to enter upon a few particulars 
of the work accomplished by it. Before doing so it must be 
clearly understood that the mechanical engineering side of 
the Tank Corps was as much a product of this Corps as the 
fighting organisation itself, as there was in the Army no 
definite Mechanical Engineering Department to draw inspira- 
tions from. The nearest was the R.A.S.C, but a very wide gap 
separated the R.A.S.C. system from that adopted in the Tank 
Corps ; both indeed dealt with petrol engines, but the tank 
and its requirements are as distinct from the lorry as the 
lorry is from the aeroplane — another mechanical weapon. 

Generally speaking, the experience of the engineering side 
of the Tank Corps, during the two years following its incep- 
tion in August 1916, has been that the most efficient organisa- 
tion depends upon the maintenance of two simple principles, 
namely : 

(i) No repairs to be carried out in the field— i.e. by 
fighting units. 

(ii) All maintenance to be carried out by the crews of the 
machines themselves. 

When the Tank Corps was first formed, each Company of 
Tanks was provided with its own workshops. At the end of 
1916 Company Workshops were abolished and Battalion 



Workshops were formed. Towards the end of 1917, after 
much consideration had been given to the question, Battalion 
Workshops were abolished and merged into Brigade Work- 
shops, while a small number of skilled workshop men were 
left with each Company. In 1918 it was realised that the 
gradual withdrawal of special workshop facilities from the 
Company organisation to the Brigade had resulted in a 
considerable improvement in the skill and ability of the tank 
crews themselves in the maintenance of their tanks. It 
was decided, therefore, to go one step further, and not only 
withdraw all Brigade Workshops into a central organisation 
known as the Central Workshops, but also to withdraw the 
special workshop men from the Companies, while tank 
crews themselves were made entirely responsible for the 
maintenance of their machines. 

In this way it was possible to draw a clear line between 
maintenance {i.e. the replacing of damaged parts, which was 
done entirely by the crews) and repairs {i.e. the mending of 
broken parts, which was done entirely by the Central Work- 
shops). At this time the argument was frequently heard 
that a man who uses a machine should be able to repair it, 
and that, if all repair work is done by a different organisation 
from the one which actually fights the machine, there will 
be a serious loss of mechanical efficiency. This idea was 
based upon a misconception of the difference between the 
functions of repairs and maintenance. On the contrary, it 
was found that the efficiency of the crews increased several 
hundred per cent, after the crews themselves were made 
responsible for the maintenance of their machines. To 
carry out this system it is, however, necessary that stores 
and spare parts should be readily available in the field ; 
this entails an intelligent system of Advanced Stores. 

One very great advantage of this centralisation of repair 
work is the considerable saving in man-power effected by 
employing all skilled men exclusively on one particular job. 
As an example, broken unions of petrol pipes commonly 
occur in all petrol engines, and if a small unit workshop exist, 
the brazing out and repair of such broken unions can be 


carried out there. In order to»do this a coppersmith must 
be kept at the unit workshop, and only part of his time will 
be employed in this work of brazing petrol unions. If now, 
however, the unit workshops are abolished, and all broken 
unions, from every unit, are sent back to a Central Work- 
shop for repair, there is a suflBcient amount of work of this 
description to keep one man, or possibly two or three, fully 
employed all their time. These men become absolute ex- 
perts in brazing broken unions, and before very long can 
do in a few minutes a job of this sort which would 
take a coppersmith with the unit workshop considerably 

The complete organisation for the maintenance and repair 
of tanks can be briefly described by tracing the itinerary of 
a tank from the day it left the manufacturer until the day 
it was received at the Central Workshops for repair. 

From the manufacturer the tank was first sent to the 
tank testing ground at Newbury, which was manned and 
administered by No. '20 Squadron, R.N.A.S. From here it 
was sent to Richborough and shipped across the channel 
by channel ferry and received by another detachment of 
No. 20 Squadron at Havre. From Havre it was sent to the 
Bermicourt area, and after being put through further tests 
was handed over to the Central Stores. The Central Stores 
were situated at the village of Erin on the Hesdin-St.-Pol 
railway, and consisted of some seven acres of railway sidings 
and some six acres of buildings. These stores were built 
in 1917, and at first included the Central Workshops ; in 
1918, however, these workshops were installed at Teneur, 
about a mile and a half away, and covered some twenty acres 
of ground. 

From the Central Stores tanks were issued to battalions, 
and after repair at the Central Workshops were received 
again at these stores for reissue as they were required. 

As the battalions carried out all their own mechanical 
maintenance. Advanced Stores were instituted, these being 
sent out from the Central Stores into the forward area im- 
mediately behind the front to be attacked by the tanks. 


These stores were organised on a very mobile footing and 
proved invaluable in all battles since October 1917. 

Besides the moving forward of these Advanced Stores, 
Tank Field Companies, originally known as Salvage Com- 
panies, were despatched from the Central Workshops to the 
battle areas. The duty of these companies was to take 
over from the fighting units all damaged tanks, such as 
those knocked out by the enemy's artillery fire ; they were, 
in fact, the clearers of the battlefield so far as tanks were 
concerned. Apart from salving complete tanks an immense 
quantity of other material was reclaimed, such as 6-pounder 
guns, machine guns, ammunition, tools, track plates, gears, 
transmissions, and engine parts, etc., which in the two years 
of the existence of these companies totalled in value several 
millions of pounds. 

The work carried out by the Tank Field Companies was 
particularly dangerous, and many casualties amongst their 
personnel occurred. In the actual reclaiming of machines 
or parts they were constantly under shell fire, and the actual 
carrying to and fro of the material made use of required 
great physical strength, since the ground to be traversed was 
frequently a mass of shell-holes ; incidentally a great deal 
of work had to be done at night since many of the machines 
to be salved were frequently situated in full view of the 

From the Tank Field Companies the salved machines were 
sent to the Central Workshops at Teneur. Here they were 
repaired, and this work entailed considerably more skill and 
labour than the initial assembly of the machines in the 
home factories on account of the shattered and burnt-out 
condition many of these machines were reduced to. Much 
of this repair work was carried out by Chinese labour and 
at these shops over 1,000 Chinese were quartered for work, 
schools being instituted for them so that mechanics, fitters, 
etc., could be trained. 

Besides testing and repairing machines much other work 
was carried out at the Central Workshops — " gagget " malcing, 
experiments, making good minor deficiencies of manufacture 


and generally improving the machines. This work frequently 
consisted in " panic " orders, such as the sledge and fascine 
making for the battle of Cambrai. One hundred and ten 
tank sledges and 400 tank fascines, bundles of wood which 
will be mentioned later, when dealing with the battle of 
Cambrai, were ordered on October 24, 1917. The former 
required some 3,000 cubic feet of wood, weighing 70 tons, and 
the latter 21,500 ordinary fascines, representing some 400 
tons of brushwood and over 2,000 fathoms of chain to hold 
them together. This order came on the top of a particularly 
strenuous period following the tank operations round Ypres. 
At the same time another order for the overhaul and repair 
of 127 machines was made. 

Owing to the limited amount of time allowed for the 
transport of material from the base ports to the Central 
Workshops and from the Central Workshops to the forward 
area, extensive use was made of lorries. From November 10 
to the 25th, twenty-eight lorries engaged on this work 
covered a total of 19,334 miles, averaging 690 miles per 
lorry, while three box ears averaged 1,242 miles each. 

The part played by the 51st Chinese Labour Company, 
attached to the Workshops, materially contributed to the 
work being duly completed in time for the battle. Owing 
to the necessity for secrecy the personnel of the Work- 
shops were without knowledge of the immediate urgency' 
of the work they were engaged on. In spite of this all ranks 
worked with the utmost enthusiasm, accomplishing the task 
in the required time. During these three weeks the Central 
Workshops were working 22g hours out of every 24 with- 
out a break, and had it not been for the " grit " displayed 
by all ranks the battle of Cambrai could not have been 
fought, and without this battle the whole course of the war 
might have been changed ; for it was the battle of Cambrai, 
as we shall shortly see, which demonstrated the full power 
of the tank and which placed it henceforth in the van of 
every battle. 



As a result of the repulse sustained by the British forces at 
the Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917, the troops operat- 
ing were withdrawn from their exposed position and the 
Tank Detachment was concentrated in a fig grove some 
2,000 yards west of Sheikh Nebhan, at which place it was 
later on reinforced by three Mark IV machines. 

A new plan of operations was drawn up in which the 
Turkish defences from Outpost hill to Ali El Muntar, which 
had resisted the combined onslaught of several divisions, 
was to be turned by an extensive flanking movement west 
of Gaza. This operation was to take place in conjunction 
with an attack on Beersheba. 

The general plan of attack was as follows : 

(i) The Australian Corps and Desert Column were to 
operate from Beersheba north-westwards to Hareira. 

(ii) Several mounted and dismounted divisions were to 
operate around Hareira and Gaza. 

(iii) A composite force of French, Italians and West Indian 
troops was to demonstrate by raids in the vicinity of Outpost 

(iv) The XXIst Corps was to attack the enemy's defences 
between Umbrella hill and the sea. 

It is with the last of these four operations that this 
chapter is concerned. For this attack the force detailed 
consisted of the 54th Division, the Indian Cavalry Division, 
and the Tank Detachment — eight machines. 

The attack of the 54th Division was divided into four 
phases — Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow. 

The Tank Detachment left Deir El Belah on the night of 
October 22-23, 1917, for the beach near Sheikh Ajhn. From 



here a thorough reconnaissance of the area of operations 
was carried out on horseback and by drifter, after which 
this area was divided into tank sectors. To these tanks 
were distributed as follows : 

(i) 156th Infantry Brigade. — ■ Objective — Umbrella hill 
north-westwards to the eastern portion of El Arish redoubt. 
No. 1 tank was to support the infantry in their attack on 
El Arish redoubt, deposit R.E. stores, attack Magdhaba 
trench and cover the infantry consolidation. 

(ii) 163rd Infantry Brigade. — Objective — El Arish redoubt 
northwards to south of Zowaiid trench. No. 2 tank was to 
attack El Arish redoubt, then Island wood, deposit R.E. 
stores, and on the arrival of the infantry take a southerly 
route and capture Crested rock. 

(iii) 161st and 162nd Infantry Brigades. — Objectives — 
Zowaiid trench to Sea Post and the Cricket valley north- 
wards to Sheikh Hasan and 500 yards beyond. For this 
operation four tanks were allotted. 

No. 3 tank to attack Zowaiid trench, move north and capture 
Rafa redoubt, rally, then proceed along Rafa trench, deposit 
R.E. material, capture Yunus trench, attack Belah trench 
until the arrival of infantry, thence proceed to Sheikh 
Hasan, deposit more R.E. stores, and return to Sheikh Ajlin. 

No. 4 tank to attack Rafa redoubt, co-operate with No. 3 
tank against Belah trench, make for Sheikh Hasan, deposit 
R.E. material, attack A. 6 (an isolated Turkish trench to 
the north-east), and hold this until the infantry had con- 
solidated it. 

No. 5 tank to capture Beach Post, co-operate in the 
assault on Cricket redoubt, attack Sheikh Hasan in advance 
of the infantry, and deposit R.E. material. 

No. 6 tank to capture Sea Post, crush down the wire as 
far as Beach Post, assault Gun hill, proceed to Sheikh Hasan, 
then deposit R.E. stores and capture the Turkish post A.5. 

(iv) Reserve Tanks. — Nos. 7 and 8 tanks were to be held 
in reserve north-east of Sheikh Ajlin ; from there they were 
to follow up the attack and replace any disabled machine. 

In all, the above six first-line machines had twenty-nine 


objectives to attack ! That this could have been accom- 
plished successfully would have demanded a miracle ; it 
was consequently foredoomed to failure. 

The first phase of the attack was to consist in an infantry 
assault protected by a creeping barrage ; during this phase 
the tanks were to move to their starting-points and be ready 
to advance at 3 o'clock on the morning of November 2. 

In order to ensure complete co-operation between the 
Tank Detachment and the infantry, tank officers and other 
ranks were attached to infantry brigades for ten days prior 
to the battle. As in France, this system resulted in the 
greatest benefit to both infantry and tank personnel alike. 

The first phase of the battle opened at II o'clock on the 
night of November 1-2, the 156th Infantry Brigade assault- 
ing Umbrella hill. To this attack the enemy did not re- 
spond immediately, but when he did he opened a heavy 
artillery fire all down his front which endangered the for- 
ward movement of the tanks to their starting-points, which, 
in spite of this, they reached half an hour before the second 
zero hour. 

It had been hoped to make every use of the full moon 
which rose in the early evening, but the smoke, resulting 
from the battle, and a dense haze restricted vision so com- 
pletely that the tanks had to move forward on compass 
bearings. At 3 a.m. a heavy barrage was opened on the 
enemy's front-line system, behind which the tanks, followed 
by the infantry, moved forward. No difficulty was experi- 
enced in dealing with the first objective, as the Turks were 
evidently taken quite by surprise. Under cover of the 
barrage our troops pushed on till they approached their 
second objective, when the enemy's fire began to make itself 
felt. Along the coastline the attack proceeded according 
to programme, all objectives, including Sheikh Hasan, being 
taken. The 161st and 163rd Brigades encountered con- 
siderable opposition at Rafa trench. Island wood. Crested 
rock, Gibraltar, and north of El Arish redoubt. Briefly the 
operations carried out by the eight tanks of the detachment 
were as follows : 


No. 1 tank successfvilly attacked El Arish redoubt and was 
penetrating the maze of trenches beyond, when owing to 
the darkness it was ditched ; its crew then joined the infantry. 

No. 2 tank assaulted El Arish redoubt and met a similar 
fate ; eventually it received a direct hit which broke its 
right track; its crew also joined the infantry. 

No. 3 tank attacked Rafa redoubt, and later on, losing 
direction in the mist, rallied. 

No. 4 tank assaulted Rafa Junior, Yunus and Belah 
trenches, and after depositing its R.E. material rallied. 

No. 6 tank captured Sea Post, moved along the enemy's 
trench, crushing down the wire as far as Beach Post, at- 
tacked Cricket redoubt, Gun hill, and Tortoise hill, and 
reaching Sheikh Hasan deposited its R.E. stores. Shortly 
after this it moved forward to attack A. 5, but breaking a 
track it had to be abandoned. 

Nos. 7 and 8 tanks received instructions at 4 a.m. to 
support the infantry attack on El Arish redoubt, and to 
proceed in this direction with R.E. material. These machines 
were loaded up with empty sandbags on the roof, these 
caught fire, probably through the heat of the exhaust pipe, 
both tanks went out of action. 

On the whole the tank operations during the Third Battle 
of Gaza were of assistance to the infantry. All tanks, ex- 
cept one, reached their first objectives ; four reached their 
second, third, and fourth, and one reached its fifth objective. 
Of the eight machines operating five were temporarily dis- 
abled. Casualties in personnel were very light — only one 
man being killed and two wounded. 

The Third Battle of Gaza closed the tank operations with 
the Army of Palestine, and though the damaged machines 
were repaired and put into fighting trim they were not used 
again. In order to overcome the great difficulty in round- 
ing up, by means of cavalry, the rearguard detachments of 
the retiring Turkish Army, a mission was sent to France to 
obtain, if possible, a nuriiber of Whippet machines. This 
mission reached Tank Corps Headquarters in France on 
March 21, the day the German offensive was launched. All 


hope of procuring these machines consequently vanished. 
The Tank Detachment, therefore, handed over their machines 
to the Ordnance Department at Alexandria and returned to 

The tank operations in Sinai and Palestine conclusively 
proved that tanks could be employed almost anywhere in 
desert regions, and all that they required were certain im- 
provements in mechanism and changes in design. 

What success the Tank Detachment won during its two 
years in the East was due to the determination and fine 
fighting spirit displayed by its officers and men, who laboured 
under the greatest difficulties, not the least being the entire 
lack of knowledge displayed by the other arms in the limita- 
tions of tanks and their tactical employment. When all is 
said and done and every criticism rounded off, success with 
tanks in battle is as much a matter of co-operation, that is, 
unity of action of all arms combined, as it is of mechanical 
fitness. This can only be attained by constant practice in 
combined exercises on the training area long prior to the 
battle even being thought of. 



The battles of 1914 were primarily infantry battles based 
on the power of the rifle, and it was not until 1915 that the 
quick-firing gun and the heavy howitzer began to replace the 
rifle as the reducers of resistance to the infantry attack. 

In 1915, as far as the British Army is concerned, it may 
be said that artillery was generally looked upon as an adjunct 
to the infantry. This idea died hard, and it was not until 
the battle of the Somme was half way through that it became 
apparent that it was no longer a question of guns co-operat- 
ing in the infantry advance,' but of the infantry itself co- 
operating with the artillery bombardments. In other words 
the limit of the infantry advance was the limit of the range 
of the guns, particularly the 18-pounders. This meant that 
no penetration of a greater depth than about 4,000 yards 
could be effected unless a second echelon of guns and infantry 
was launched and brought into action simultaneously with 
or just before the first assault had reached the range limit 
of the guns which were supporting it. 

Two factors prohibited this from being done ; the first 
was the heavily shelled area which usually extends over the 
whole 4,000 yards of the initial advance ; the second, the 
great difficulty of keeping the second echelon of guns supplied 
with sufficient ammunition to maintain the second barrage. 
The shelled area not only prohibited the movement of guns 
for days, but produced such exhaustion on the second echelon 
of infantry crossing it, that by the time it caught up with 
the fu"st echelon its men were too fatigued to continue the 

By some it was hoped that the tank would partially over- 
come this difficulty if it were brought into action on the area 



over which the 18-pounder barrage was beginning to fail, 
and by producing a local barrage of its own, by means of its 
machine guns, that it would cover any advance from 4,000 
yards onwards. 

This idea, though perfectly sound in itself, was doomed to 
failure as long as the conditions of ground produced by 
artillery fire rendered it impossible to support these tanks by 
infantry in fighting condition. 

The first solution to this problem was to cease using 
heavy artillery on ground to be traversed by the infantry 
attackers. This, however, is at best but a half measure, 
for though, in the present phase of the war, co-operation 
between infantry and tanks was of vital importance, this 
co-operation could not be maintained for long if one arm 
has to rely on its muscular power, whilst the other relies on 
petrol as its motive force. At best, the advance of 4,000 to 
6,000 yards will be extended to 8,000 or 12,000 yards, when 
the endurance of the infantry will reach its limit and the 
advance automatically cease. This is not sufficient, for in 
a war such as was being waged in 1917 (a trench war), in 
order to beat an enemy, the first necessity was to prevent 
him using his spade. This can only be done by maintaining 
a continuous, if comparatively slow advance, that is, by 
replacing muscle by petrol as the motive force. This means 
the creation of a mechanical army. 

In August 1917 the Tank Corps fully realised that the 
creation of such an army, even on a very small scale, would 
take at least a year ; further, that its creation depended on 
the value of the tank being fully recognised by those who 
could create such an army, and upon this army being used 
in a suitable area of operations. Consequently the first thing 
to do was to discover a suitable tank area ; the second, to 
hold a tactical demonstration on it with tanks so as to 
convince the General Staff of their power and value. These 
steps it was felt would have to be taken before the petrol 
engine would be accepted as the motive force of the modern 

The selection of a theatre of operations depends on the 


objective to be gained ; the gaining of the objective on the 
breaking down of the enemy's resistance. Consequently the 
weapon which will most speedily overcome this resistance 
must be considered first, and the area of attack in the theatre 
of operations chosen must be selected as far as possible with 
reference to its powers. 

In the present instance we find that the chief resistance 
to our infantry advance comes from the enemy's machine 
guns. We dare not concentrate all our artillery on these, 
for if we do, we shall release his guns, which, free, can put 
up a stronger resistance than his machine guns on account 
of their superior range. Further, whilst by sound and flash 
ranging and aeroplane observation we can discover his main 
gun positions, no means have yet been discovered whereby 
his machine gimis can be located other than by advancing 
on them and risking casualties. Tanks must, therefore, be 
employed to do this in order to clear the way for the infantry 
advance. Consequently, if sufficient tanks are forthcoming, 
in order to guarantee a decisive success, it is no longer a 
question of the tank as a spare wheel to the car, in case of 
an unforeseen puncture in our operations, but as the motive 
force of the car itself, the infantry being merely its armed 
occupants ; without which the car is valueless. 

The area of operations selected must firstly be suitable 
to the rapid movement of tanks, and secondly, misuitable to 
hostile anti-tank defences. Further, it should be chosen 
with reference to the tactical characteristics of this arm. 
Once chosen, all other weapons should be deployed and em- 
ployed to facilitate the advance of the tank, because it is to 
be used as the chief maintainer of infantry endurance, and 
it is the infantry man with his machine gun and bayonet 
who is going, for some time to come, to decide the battle. 

Such were the views held in the Tank Corps at the open- 
ing of the Third Battle of Ypres, and the following extract 
taken from a paper written on June 11, 1917, is not only of 
interest but prophetic of future events : 

"If we look at a layered map of France we can at once 


put our finger on the area to select. It lies between the 
Scarpe and the Oise, the Flanders swamps in the north and 
the Ardennes in the south-east. It was down this funnel of 
undulating country that the Germans advanced in 1914, 
and it is up it that they will most hkely be driven if 
strategy is governed by ground and tactics by weapons." 

The main area suitable for tank operations having been 
fixed upon by the Tank Corps, the next requirement was to 
.select a definite objective, the attack against which would 
draw the enemy's reserves towards it and so relieve the 
pressure wiiich was being exerted against the Fifth Army 
at Ypres. Two locahties were considered, St. Quentin and 
Cambrai. The first was opposite the French area, the second 
opposite the British. 

The suggestion put forward as regards the St. Quentin 
operation was abandonefi on account of difficulties arising 
out of a British force operating in the French area ; it must 
be remembered that at this time no real unity of command 
existed in France. 

The Cambrai project consisted in a surprise raid, the 
duration of which would be about twenty-four hours. The 
whole operation may be summed up in three words, "Advance, 
Hit, Retire." Its object was to destroy the enemy's per- 
sonnel and guns, to demoralise and disorganise his fighting 
troops and reserves, and not to capture ground or to hold 
trenches. It was further considered that such an operation 
would interrupt his roulement of reserves and make the 
enemy think twice as to replacing fresh divisions by ex- 
hausted and demoralised units in those parts of his line 
which were not included in his battle front. Further, it would 
confuse him as to the decisive point of attack ; for any day 
one of these raids might be followed by a strong offensive. 

The actual area of operations selected was the re-entrant 
formed by the L'Escaut or St. Quentin Canal between the 
villages of Ribecourt, Cr^vecoeur, and Banteux. The going 
in this area was excellent; further, the area to be raided 
contained several fair-sized villages and important ground, 
and was well limited by the canal, which not only made a 


rapid reinforcing of the area in the bend difficult, but com- 
pletely limited the tank objectives. 

The plan of attack was a threefold one : 

(i) To scour the country between Marcoing, Masni^res, 
Crevecoeur, Le Bosquet, Banteux. 

(ii) To form an offensive flank between Le Bosquet and 

(iii) To form an offensive flank against Banteux. 

The attack was to be launched at dawn, the first line of 
tanks making straight for the enemy's guns, which before, 
and as the tanks approached them, were to be bombed by 
our aeroplanes. The second and third lines of tanks were 
to follow, whilst our heavy guns commenced counter-battery 
work and the shelling of the villages and bridges along the 
canal. The essence of the entire operation was to be sur- 
prise coupled with rapidity of movement. The spirit of 
such an enterprise is audacity, which was to take the place 
of undisguised preparation. 

It must be realised that both the St. Quentin and Cambrai 
projects were the home product of the Tank Corps, and 
they did not emanate from higher authority, which, when 
approached, was unable to sanction either. In spite of this, 
steps were taken to reconnoitre the Cambrai area, and for 
this purpose both the Brigadier-General commanding the 
Tank Corps and the 3rd Tank Brigade Commander visited 
Sir Julian Byng, the Third Army Commander, at his Head- 
quarters in Albert. Though it is not known whether the 
Third Army Commander had already considered the possi- 
bilities of an offensive on the front of his Army, in Septem- 
ber it would appear that he approached G.H.Q. on the 
subject, with the result that still no action outside the 
Ypres area could be considered, anyhow for the present. 



On October 20, the project, which had been constantly in 
the mind of the General Staff of the Tank Corps for nearly 
three months and in anticipation of which preparations had 
already been imdertaken, was approved of, and its date 
fixed for November 20. 

The battle was to be based on tanks and led by them. 
There was to be no preliminary artillery bombardment ; the 
day the Tank Corps had prayed for, for nearly a year, was 
at last fixed, and its success depended on the following three 
factors : 

(i) That the attack was a surprise. 

(ii) That the tanks were able to cross the great trenches 
of the Hindenburg system. 

(iii) That the infantry possessed sufficient confidence in 
the tanks to follow them. 

The following difficulties had to be overcome before these 
requirements could be met. The tanks, on October 20, were 
scattered over a considerable area : some were at Ypres, 
others near Lens, and others at Bermicourt. These would 
all have to be assembled not at suitable entraining stations, 
as is usually the case, but at various traini^ig areas so that 
co-operative training with the infantry could take place. 
This was of first importance, for success depended as much 
on the confidence of the infantry in the tanks as on the sur- 
prise of the attack. At these training centres, tanks would 
have to be completely overhauled and fitted with a special 
device to assist them in crossing the Hindenburg trenches, 
which were known, in many places, to be over 12 ft. wide, 
and the span of the Mark IV machine was only 10 ft. This 
device consisted in binding together by means of chains 



some seventy-five ordinary fascines, thus making one tank 
fascine, a great bundle of brushwood 4'^ ft. in diameter and 
10 ft. long ; this bundle was carried on the nose of the tank 
and, when a large trench was encountered, was cast into it by 
pulling a quick release inside the tank. As already described 
these tank fascines and the " fitments " necessary to fix 
and release them were made by the Tank Corps Central 

Before the infantry assembled for training a new tactics 
had to be devised, not only to meet the conditions which 
would be encountered but to fit the limitations imposed 
upon the tank by it being able to carry only one tank fascine. 
Once this fascine was cast it could not be picked up again 
without considerable difiiculty. 

Briefly, the tactics decided on were worked out to meet 
the following requirements : "To effect a penetration of 
four systems of trenches in a few hours without any type of 
artillery preparation." They were as follows : 

Each objective was divided up into tank section attack 
areas, according to the number of tactical points in the 
objective, and a separate echelon, or line, of tanks was 
allotted to each objective. Each section was to consist of 
three machines — one Advanced Guard tank and two In- 
fantry tanks (also called Main Body tanks) ; this was 
agreed to on account of there not being sufficient tanks in 
France to bring sections up to four machines apiece. 

The duty of the Advanced Guard tank was to keep down 
the enemy's fire and to protect the Infantry tanks as they 
led the infantry through the enemy's wire and over his 
trenches. The allotment of the infantry to tanks depended 
on the strength of the objective to be attacked, and the 
nature of the approaches ; their formation was that of sec- 
tions in single file with a leader to each file. They were 
organised in three forces : trench clearers to operate with 
the tanks ; trench stops to block the trenches at various 
points, and trench supports to garrison the captured trench 
and form an advanced guard to the next echelon of tanks 
and infantry passing through. 


The whole operation was divided into three phases : the 
Assembly, the Approach, and the Attack. The first was 
carried out at night time and was a parade drill, the infantry 
falling in behind the tanks on tape lines, connected with their 
starting-points by taped routes. The Approach was slow 
and orderly, the infantry holding themselves in readiness to 
act on their own initiative. The Attack was regulated so as 
to economise tank fascines ; it was carried out as follows. The 
Advanced Guard tank went straight forward through the 
enemy's wire and, turning to the left, without crossing the 
trench in front of it, opened right sponson broadsides. The 
Infantry tanks then made for the same spot : the left-hand 
one, crossing the wire, approached the trench and cast its 
fascine, then crossed over the fascine and, turning to the left, 
worked down the fire trench and round its allotted objective ; 
the second Infantry tank crossed over the fascine of the first 
and made for the enemy's support trench, cast its fascine, 
and, crossing, did likewise. Meanwhile the Advanced Guard 
tank had swung round, and crossing over the fascines of the 
two Infantry tanks moved forward with its own fascine still 
in position. When the two Infantry tanks met they formed 
up behind the Advanced Guard tank and awaited orders. 

In training the infantry the following exercises were 
carried out : 

(i) Assembly of infantry behind tanks, 
(ii) Advance to attack behind tanks, 
(iii) Passing through wire crushed down by tanks, 
(iv) Clearing up a trench sector under protection of tanks. 
To enable them to work quickly in section single files 
and to form from these into section lines, a simple platoon 
drill was issued, and it is interesting to note that this drill 
was based on a very similar one described by Xenophon in 
his "Cyropsedia" and attributed to King Cyrus {circa 500 B.C.). 
Whilst training was being arranged by the Tank Corps 
General Staff the Administrative Staff was preparing for the 
railway concentration, which was by no means an easy 

The difficulties of concentrating a large number of tanks 


in the area of operations was accentuated by the dispersion 
of the Tank Corps and the shortage of trucks ; this shortage 
was made good by collecting a number of old French heavy 
trucks ; these, however, did not prove at all satisfactory as 
they were too light. In spite of these difficulties the whole 
of the units of the Tank Corps were concentrated in their 
training areas by November 5. 

In order to make the most of the available truckage and 
the time attainable for infantry training, it was decided to 
concentrate three-quarters of the whole number of tanks to 
be used, i.e. twenty-seven train loads, at the Plateau station 
by November 14 (Z— 6 days) ; to move these to their final 
detraining stations on Z— 4, Z— 3, and Z— 2 days ; and to 
move the remaining quarter, i.e. nine train loads, from the 
training areas to the detraining stations on Z— 5 day. The 
detraining stations selected were Ruyaulcourt and Bertin- 
court for the 1st Brigade, Sorel and Ytres for the 2nd Brigade, 
and Old and New Heudicourt for the 3rd Brigade. At all 
these stations detraining ramps and sidings were built or 
improved. In all, thirty-six tank trains were run, and ex- 
cept for two or three minor accidents the move was carried 
out to programme. This was chiefly due to the excellent 
work of the Third Army Transportation Staff. 

Supply arrangements were divided under two main head- 
ings : supply by light railways and supply in the field by 
supply tanks. The main dumps selected were at Havrin- 
court wood for the 1st Brigade, Dessart wood for the 2nd, 
and Villers Guislain and Gouzeaucourt for the 3rd Brigade, 
A few of the items dumped were 165,000 gallons of petrol, 
55,000 lb. of grease, 5,000,000 rounds of S.A.A., and 54,000 
rounds of 6-pounder ammunition. Without the assistance 
of .the light railways this dumping would hardly have been 
possible. On November 30 a S.O.S. call for petrol was made 
on Ruyaulcourt. A train was loaded, despatched 3'| miles, 
and the petrol delivered in just under one hour. This is a 
fair example of the magnificent work consistently carried out 
by the Third Army light railways during the battle of 


The Third Army plan of operations was as follows : 

(i) To break the German defensive system between the 
canal St. Quentin and the canal Du Nord. 

(ii) To seize Cambrai, Bourlon wood, and the passages over 
the river Sens6e. 

(iii) To cut oft the Germans in the area south of the Sensee 
and west of the canal Du Nord. 

(iv) To exploit the success towards Valenciennes. 

This operation, for its initial success, depended on the 
penetration of all lines of defences, including the Masnii^res- 
Beaurevoir line, which in its turn depended on the seizing 
of the bridges at Masni^res and Marcoing. 

The force allotted for this attack was — two corps of three 
infantry divisions each ; the Tank Corps of nine battalions — 
378 fighting tanks and 98 administrative machines ; a 
cavalry corps, and 1,000 guns. 

The attack was to be carried out in three phases. In the 
first the infantry were to occupy the line Cr^vecoeur, Mas- 
nitres, Marcoing, Flesquieres, canal Du Nord ; the leading 
cavalry division was then to push through at Masniferes and 
Marcoing, capture Cambrai, Paillencourt, and Pailluel (cross- 
ing over the river Sensee), and move with its right on Valen- 
ciennes ; whilst this was in progress the Ilird Corps, which 
formed the right wing of the Third Army, was to form a de- 
fensive flank on the line Cr^vecceur, La Belle Etoile, Iwuy ; 
the cavalry were then to cut the Valenciennes-Douai Hne 
and so facihtate the advance of the Ilird Corps in a north- 
easterly direction. The second and third phases were to be 
carried out by the IVth Corps, which formed the left wing of 
the Third Army, and were to consist firstly in opening the 
Bapaume-Cambrai road and occupying Bourlon and Inchy, 
and secondly, in opening the Arras-Cambrai road and ad- 
vancing on the Sens6e canal and so to cut off the German 
forces west of the canal Du Nord. 

The ground to be fought over consisted chiefly in open, 
rolling downland, very lightly shelled, and consequently 
most suitable to tank movement. The main tactical features 
were the two canals which practically prohibited the forma- 


tion of tank offensive flanks and so strategically were a dis- 
tinct disadvantage to what was meant to be a decisive battle. 
Between these two canals were two important features — the 
Flesqui^res-Havrincourt ridge and Bourlon hill. A third 
very important feature, known as the Rumilly-Seranvillers 
ridge, ran parallel to and north of the St. Quentin canal 
between Cr^vecceur and Marcoing ; without the occupation 
of this ridge a direct attack from the south on Bourlon 
hill could only take place under the greatest disadvantage. 

The German defences consisted of three main lines of 
resistance and an outpost line : these lines were the Hinden- 
burg Line, the Hindenburg Support Line, and the Beaurevoir- 
Masni^res-Bourlon line, the last being very incomplete. The 
trenches for the most part were sited on the reverse slopes 
of the main ridges, and consequently direct artillery observa- 
tion on them from the British area was impossible. They 
were protected by immensely thick bands and fields of wire 
arranged in salients so as to render their destruction most 
difficult. To have cut these bands by artillery fire would 
have required several weeks bombardment and scores of 
thousands of tons of ammunition. 

The weather had been throughout November fine and 
foggy, so much so that aeroplane observation had been next 
to impossible. This foggy weather greatly assisted prepara- 
tory arrangements by securing them from observation. 

The artillery preparations were as follows: — Over 1,000 
guns of various calibres were concentrated in the Third 
Army area for the attack. None of these, however, were 
permitted to register before zero hour. Briefly the follow- 
ing was the artillery programme from zero hour on. 

At zero the barrage was to open on the enemy's outpost 
line ; it was to consist of shrapnel and H.E. mixed with 
smoke shells. It was to move forward by jumps of approxi- 
mately 250 yards at a time, standing on certain objectives 
for stated periods. Simultaneously with this jumping bar- 
rage smoke screens were to be thrown up on selected localities, 
notably on the right flank of the Ilird Corps and on the 
Flesqui^res ridge ; counter-battery work was to open and 



special bombardments on prearranged localities such as 
bridgeheads, centres of communication, and roads likely to 
be used by the German reserves were to take place. 

Tank Corps reconnaissances were started as early as 
secrecy would permit, but it was not until a few days before 
November 20 that commanders were allowed to reconnoitre 
the ground from our front-trench system. Meanwhile at the 
Plateau station tanks were tuned up and tank fascines fixed. 
All detrainments were carried out by night, the tanks being 
moved up to their position of assembly under cover of dark- 
ness. These positions were : Villers Guiglain and Gouzeau- 
court for the 3rd Brigade, Dessart wood for the 2nd Brigade, 
and Havrincourt wood for the 1st Brigade. At these places 
tanks were carefully camouflaged. 


Tank Bde. 





No. ol 


towards — 


3rd Bde. 









Number of tanks 
used for exploi- 








tation varied 
according to con- 








dition of units 
after gaining 







Blue and Bro^vn 























Canal, Mas- 


niires to 












Rumilly to 


Nine wood 

2nd Bde. 






















Nine wood 






1st Bde. 








1st Bde. used all 










tanks in mechan- 
ical reserve. 












Bourlon vil- 
lage. Grain- 

♦ In mechanical reserve, to replace breakdowns. 


November 20^.^ 1917. 

Scale of Yards 


The allotment of tanks to infantry units is given in the 
table on page 146. Besides these, each Brigade had eighteen 
supply tanks or gun carriers and three wireless-signal tanks. 
Thirty-two machines were specially fitted with towing gear 
and grapnels to clear the wire along the cavalry lines of 
advance ; two for carrying bridging material for the cavalry 
and one to carry forward telephone cable for the Third 
Army Signal Service. The total number of tanks employed 
was 476 machines. 

On the night of November 17-18 the enemy raided our 
trenches in the vicinity of Havrincourt wood and captured 
some of our men, and, from the documents captured during 
the battle, it appears that these men informed the enemy 
that an operation was impending ; time wherein the Ger- 
mans could make use of this was, however, so limited that 
the warning of a possible attack only reached the German 
firing line a few minutes before it took place. 

The following night, that of the 19tli-20th, was broken 
by a sharp burst of artillery and trench-mortar fire which 
died away in the early morning, and at 6 a.m. all was still 
save for the occasional rattle of a machine gun. A thick 
mist covered the ground when at 6.10 a.m., ten minutes before 
zero hour, the tanks, which had deployed on a line some 
1,000 yards from the enemy's outpost trenches, began to move 
forward, infantry in section columns advancing slowly 
behind them. Ten minutes later, at 6.20 a.m., zero hour, the 
1,000 British guns opened fire, the barrage coming down 
with a terrific crash about 200 yards in front of the tanks 
which were now proceeding slowly across " No Man's Land," 
led by Brigadier- General H. J. EUes, the Commander of the 
Tank Corps, who flew the Tank Corps colours from his tank 
and who on the evening before the battle had issued the 
following inspiring Special Order to his men : 

Special Order No. 6 ' 
1. To-morrow the Tank Corps will have the chance for 

1 The statement made in the daily press that General Ellea' order ran — 
" England expects every tank to do its damnedest," was a pure journalistic 
invention and one in very bad taste. 


which it has been waiting for many months — to operate on 
good going in the van of the battle. 

2. All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve has been 
done in the way of preparation. 

3. It remains for unit commanders and for tank crews to 
complete the work by judgment and pluck in the battle itself. 

4. In the light of past experience I leave the good name 
of the Corps with great confidence in their hands: 

5. I propose leading the attack of the centre division. 

Hugh Elles, 
B.G. Commanding Tank Corps. 

Nmjember 19, 1917. 

The attack was a stupendous success ; as the tanks moved 
forward with the infantry following close behind, the enemy 
completely lost his balance and those who did not fly panic- 
stricken from the field surrendered with little or no resis- 
tance. Only at the tactical points was opposition met with. 
At Lateau wood on the right of the attack heavy fighting 
took place, including a duel between a tank and a 5'9 in. 
howitzer. Turning on the tank the howitzer fired, shatter- 
ing and tearing off most of the right-hand sponson of the 
approaching machine, but fortunately not injuring its vitals ; 
before the gunners could reload the tank was upon them and 
in a few seconds the great gun was crushed in a jumbled 
mass amongst the brushwood surrounding it. A little to 
the west of this wood the tanks of F Battalion, which had 
topped the ridge, were speeding down on Masnieres. One 
approached the bridge, the key to the Rumilly-Seranvillers 
position, upon the capture of which so much depended. On 
arriving at the bridge it was found that the enemy had 
already blown it up, nevertheless the tank attempted to 
cross it ; creeping down the broken girders it entered the 
water but failed to climb the opposite side. Other tanks 
arriving and not being able to cross assisted the infantry 
in doing so by opening a heavy covering fire. Westwards 
again La Vacquerie was stormed and Marcoing was occupied. 
This latter village had been carefully studied beforehand 
and a definite scheme worked out as to where tanks should 


proceed after entering it. Difficult though this operation 
was, each position was taken up and the German engineers 
shot just as they were connecting up the demohtion charges 
on the main bridge to the electric batteries. 

In the Grand Ravin, which runs from Havrincourt to 
Marcoing, all was panic, and from Ribecourt northwards the 
flight of the German soldiers could be traced by the equip- 
ment they had cast off in order to speed their withdrawal. 
Nine wood (Bois des Neuf) was stormed, and Premy Chapel 
occupied. At the village of Flesqui^res the 51st Division, 
which had devised an attack formation of its own, was held 
up ; it appears that the tanks out-distanced the infantry 
or that the tactics adopted did not permit of the infantry 
keeping close enough up to the tanks. As the tanks topped 
the Crest they came under direct artillery fire at short range 
and suffered heavy casualties. This loss would have mat- 
tered little had the infantry been close up, but, being some 
distance off, directly the tanks were knocked out the German 
machine gunners, ensconced amongst the ruins of the houses, 
came to life and delayed their advance until nightfall ; thus 
Flesqui^res was not actually occupied until November 21. 

In the village of Havrincourt some stiff fighting took place. 
All objectives were, however, rapidly captured, and the 
62nd Division had the honour of occupying Graincourt 
before nightfall, thus effecting the deepest penetration 
attained during the attack on this day. From Graincourt 
several tanks pushed on towards Bourlon wood and the 
Cambrai road, but by this time the infantry were too ex- 
hausted to make good any further ground gained. 

Meanwhile No. 3 Company of A Battalion had assisted 
the 29th Division on the Premy Chapel-Rumilly line, one 
section of tanks working towards Masnieres and another 
co-operating with the infantry in the attack on Marcoing 
and the high ground beyond. The third section attacked 
Nine wood, destroying many machine guns there and at the 
village of Noyelles, which was then occupied by our infantry. 

Whilst these operations were in progress the supply tanks 
had moved forward to their " rendezvous," the wireless- 


signal tanks had taken up their allotted position, one send- 
ing back the information of the capture of Marcoing within 
ten minutes of our infantry entering this village ; and the 
wire-pullers cleared three broad tracks of all wire so that 
the cavalry could move forward. This they did, and they 
assembled in the Grand Ravin and in the area adjoining the 
village of Masni^res. 

By 4 p.m. on November 20, one of the most astonishing 
battles in all history had been won and, as far as the Tank 
Corps was concerned, tactically finished, for, no reserves 
existing, it was not possible to do more than rally the now 
very weary and exhausted crews, select the fittest, and patch 
up composite companies to continue the attack on the 
morrow. This was done, and on the 21st the 1st Brigade 
supported the 62nd Division with twenty-five tanks in its 
attack on Anneux and Bourlon wood and the 2nd Brigade 
sent twenty-four machines against Cantaing and Fontaine- 
Notre-Dame, both of which villages were captured. 

November 21 saw, generally speaking, the end of any 
co-operative action between tanks and infantry ; hence- 
forth, new infantry being employed, loss of touch and action 
between them and the tanks constantly resulted. Neverthe- 
less on the 23rd a briUiant attack was executed by the 40th 
Division, assisted by thirty-four tanks of the 1st Brigade ; 
this resulted in the capture of Bourlon wood. The tanks 
then pressed on towards the village ; the infantry, however, 
who had suffered severe casualties in the capture of the wood, 
were not strong enough to secure a firm footing in it. 

This day also saw desperate fighting in the village of 
Fontaine-Notre-Dame. Twenty-three tanks entered this 
village in advance of our own infantry ; there they met with 
severe resistance, the enemy retiring to the top stories of 
the houses and raining bombs and bullets down on the roofs 
of our machines. Our infantry, who were very exhausted, 
were unable to make good the ground gained, consequently, 
all tanks which were able to do so withdrew under cover of 
darkness at about 7 p.m. 

On November 25 and 27 further attacks were made by 


tanks and infantry on Bourlon and Fontaine-Notre-Dame 
with varying success, but eventually both these villages 
remained in the hands of the enemy. So ends the first 
phase of the battle of Cambrai. 

During the attacks which had taken place since Novem- 
ber 21, tank units had become terribly disorganised, and 
by the 27th had been reduced to such a state of exhaustion 
that it was determined to withdraw the 1st and 2nd Brigades. 
This withdrawal was nearing completion when the great Ger- 
man counter-attack was launched early on the morning of 
November 30. 

To appreciate this attack, it must be remembered that at 
this time the Ilird and IVth Corps were occupying a very 
pronounced salient, and that all fighting had, during the 
last few days, concentrated in the Bourlon area and had 
undoubtedly drawn our attention away from our right flank 
east of Gouzeaucourt. The plan of General von der Marwitz, 
the German Army Commander, was a bold one, it was none 
other than to capture the entire Ilird and IVth British 
Corps by pinching off the salient by a dual attack, his right 
wing operating from Bourlon southwards and his left from 
Honnecourt westwards, the two attacks converging on Tres- 
cault. Between these two wings a holding attack was to 
be made from Masnieres to La Folic wood. 

The attack was launched shortly after daylight on Novem- 
ber 30, and failed completely on the right against Bourlon 
wood. Here the enemy was caught by our artillery and 
machine guns and mown down by hundreds. On the left, 
however, the attack succeeded : firstly, it came as a sur- 
prise; secondly, the Germans heralded their assault by lines 
of low-flying aeroplanes which caused our men to keep well 
down in their trenches and so lose observation. Under the 
protection of this aeroplane barrage and a very heavy mortar 
bombardment the German infantry advanced and speedily 
captured Villers Guislain and Gouzeaucourt. 

At 9.55 a.m. a telephone message from the Ilird Corps 
warned the 2nd Brigade of the attack, but, in spite of the 
fact that many of the machines were in a non-fighting con- 


dition, by 12.40 p.m. twenty-two tanks of B Battalion 
moved off towards Gouzeaucourt, rapidly followed by four- 
teen of A Battalion. Meanwhile the Guards Division recap- 
tured Gouzeaucourt, so, when the tanks arrived, they were 
pushed out as a screen to cover the defence of this village. 
By 2 p.m. twenty tanks of H Battalion were ready, these 
moved up in support. 

Early on the morning of December 1, in conjunction with 
the Guards Division and 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions, 
the 2nd Brigade delivered a counter-attack against Villers 
Guislain and Gauche wood. The western edge of the wood 
was cleared of the enemy ; the tanks then proceeded through 
the wood, where very heavy fighting took place. From the 
reports received as to the large number of dead in the wood 
and the numerous machine grnis found in position, it is clear 
that the enemy had intended to hold it at all costs. Once 
the wood was cleared the tanks proceeded on to Villers 
Guislain, but being subjected to direct gun fire eventually 

The counter-attack carried out by the 2nd Brigade greatly 
assisted in restoring a very dangerous situation ; it was a 
bold measure well executed, all ranks behaving with the 
greatest courage and determination under difficult and un- 
expected circumstances and amidst the greatest confusion 
caused by the success of the German attack ; every tank 
crew of every movable machine had but one thought, 
namely, to move eastward and attack the enemy. This they 
did, and it is a remarkable fact that, though at 8 a.m. on 
(November 30 not one machine of the Brigade was in a fit 
state or fully equipped for action, by 6 a.m. on the follow- 
ing day no fewer than seventy-three tanks had been launched 
against the enemy with decisive effect. 

Thus ended the first great tank battle in the whole history 
of warfare, and, whatever may be the future historian's 
dictum as to its value, it must ever rank as one of the most 
remarkable battles ever fought. On November 20, from a 
base of some 13,000 yards in width, a penetration of no less 
than 10,000 yards was effected in twelve hours ; at the Third 


Battle of Ypres a similar penetration took three months. 
Eight thousand prisoners and 100 guns were captured, and 
these prisoners alone were nearly double the casualties suffered 
by the Ilird and IVth Corps during the first day of the battle. 
It is an interesting point to remember that in this battle the 
attacking infantry were assisted by 690 officers and 3,500 
other ranks of the Tank Corps, a little over 4,000 men, or the 
strength of a strong infantry brigade, and that these men 
replaced artillery wire-cutting and rendered unnecessary 
the old preliminary bombardment. More than this, by 
keeping close to the infantry they effected a much higher 
co-operation than had ever before been attainable with 
artillery. When on November 21 the bells of London pealed 
forth in celebration of the victory of Cambrai, consciously 
or unconsciously to their listeners they tolled out an old 
tactics and rang in a new — Cambrai had become the Valmy 
of a new epoch in war, the epoch of the mechanical engineer. 




During the many battles and engagements in which the 
Tank Corps took part many appreciative special orders and 
letters were received from the Higher Commanders under 
whose orders the Corps worked. These kindly words, always 
appreciated, are apt sometimes to be regarded as the in- 
evitable " good chits " which courtesy demands should be 
addressed to good, indifferent, and bad alike after an opera- 
tion has been successfully completed. Unsolicited testi- 
monials, and especially such as are not meant for the eyes of 
those praised, when they do, by chance, come under these 
eyes, are regarded as more than mere " pats on the back," 
especially when they come from those who have fought along- 
side the commended. 

The following letter was written by an infantry officer 
who took part in the battle of Cambrai, and addressed to a 
personal friend neither in nor connected with the Tank 
Corps, who, months later on, showed it to one who was. 
Not only did this letter come as a pleasant and gratifying 
surprise to all ranks of the Corps, for it was published as a 
" Battle Note," ' but it shows such an exceptionally clear 
insight into the value and possibilities of the tanks that, even 
for this reason alone, it is worth publishing. Who the writer 
was the Tank Corps never knew, but his sound judgment 
and kindly appreciation stimulated amongst his readers that 
high form of personal and collective pride which to soldiers 
is known as " esprit de corps." It is on human documents 
such as these, rather than on orders and instructions, that the 

1 " Battle Notes " were issued from time to time by Tank Corps Head- 
quarters to all tank crews. Their object was to stimtilate " esprit de corps 
and moral." They were human documents for the most part, referring not 
only to the tank but also to other arms. 



moral of an individual or a unit grows strong, and by growing 
strong places the entire Army one step nearer victory. 
The letter reads as follows : 

" I will first give you the opinion of one of my colonels. 
In three years of fighting on this front, I have met no bat- 
talion commander "to equal him in power of leadership, 
rapidity of decision in an emergency, and personal magnetism. 
I have met no man who would judge so justly what an in- 
fantry soldier can and cannot do. 

" He considers the tanks invaluable if properly handled, 
either for the attack or in defence — but he realises, as I 
think we all do, that until Cambrai, the tactical knowledge 
shown in their employment was of the meanest order. 

" One other valuable opinion I've obtained. We have 
now with the Battalion a subaltern, a man of about thirty 
— a very good soldier, a resolute, determined kind of fellow 
who has seen a good deal of fighting. He commanded a 
platoon in our — th Battalion in the big tank attack at 
Cambrai and was in the first wave of the attack throughout. 
He tells me that the tanks covering the advance of his bat- 
talion functioning under ideal weather and ground conditions, 
were handled with marked skill and enterprise in the capture 
of the first two objectives covering an advance of about 3,500 
yards, ^he moral effect of the support given by tanks on 
the attacking infantry is very great. He says his men felt paoe,«t-c 
the utmost confidence in the tanks and were prepared to 
follow them anywhere?) (^he effect of the advancing line of 
tanks on the enemy infantry was extraordinary. They 
made no attempt whatever to hold their trenches, and either 
bolted in mad panic or, abandoning their arms, rushed 
forward with hands uplifted to surrender?) As long as the 
advance of the tanks continued, i.e., over the enemy trench 
system to a depth of from two to three miles, the total 
casualties incurred by our — th Battalion (attacking in the 
first wave) were four killed and five wounded, all by shell fire. 
" After the fall of the second objective, the advance ceased 
for some unexplained reason — (they were told some hitch 
about Flesqui^res) — the attack seemed to lose purpose and 
direction. Tanks on the flanks began coming back. The 
battalion was ordered to attack five different objectives, 
and before the necessary plans could be communicated to 
subordinate commanders, orders were received cancelling 


the previous instructions. In a word, chaos prevailed. The 
afore-mentioned subaltern cannot speak too highly of the 
work of the tank commanders — nothing could exceed their 
daring and enterprise. He says he is absolutely convinced 
that infantry, unsupported by artillery, are absolutely 
powerless against tanks and that no belt of wire can be 
built through which they cannot break an admirable passage 
for infantry. 

" Lastly, he makes no secret of the fact that it would 
demand the utmost exercise of his determination and reso- 
lution to stand fast and hold his ground in the face of an 
attack by enemy tanks, carried out on the same scale as ours. 
I may add that he is a big upstanding fellow, a fine athlete, 
and afraid of nothing on two legs. 

" I give you his opinion at some length, because they are 
the ipsissima verba of a man qualified to speak, from personal 
practical experience. Personally, I believe the tanks may 
yet play the biggest r61e in the war, if only the Higher Com- 
mand will employ them in situations where common-sense 
and past experience alike demand their use. Two days 
before the Hun attacked us at Bourlon wood we lost three 
officers and some seventy gallant fellows trying to mop up 
a couple of enemy M.G. nests — a bit of work a couple of 
tanks could have done with certainty without the loss of a 

" In the situation described after the capture of the second 
objective, why should there not have been a responsible 
staff officer — G.S.0.1 say — right forward in a tank to size 
up the situation and seize opportunity, the very essence of 
which is rapid decision ? In the early days of the war, for- 
getful of the lessons of South Africa, we put our senior officers 
in the forefront of the battle — of late, the pendulum has 
swung the other way — surely the employment of a tank for 
the purpose outlined would enable us now to strike the 
happy mean ? 

r^In defence, as a mobile ' pill-box,' the possibilities of the 
tank are great — any man who has led infantry ' over the 
top ' knows the demoralising and disorganising effect of the 
' surprise packet ' machine-gun nest — what more admirable 
type of nest can be devised ? Continually changing posi- 
tion, hidden from enemy aircraft by smoke and the dust of 
battle, offering no target for aimed artillery fire'T) 

" Half the casualties we suffer in heavy fighting after the 


initial attack come from the carrying parties winding slowly 
in and out through barrage fire, bringing up ammunition to 
the infantry, the Lewis and Vickers guns — all this could be 
done much more rapidly, surely, with a minimum of loss, by 
'tanks — for the future the tank should relieve tJie artillery 
of all responsibility as regards wire-cutting. LXou know* 
you can cross a belt of wire over which a tank has passed, 
you hope you can pass through a wire belt on which the 
artillery has played for a couple of days. As a business 
proposition a tank at £5,000 will cut more wire in one journey, 
even assuming it does nothing else, than 2,000 shells at £5 
each, blazing away for a day — add the wear on the life of 
the gunT] 

" In attack, one of the most difficult problems of the 
infantry is to get the Stokes guns far enough forward, with 
sufficient ammunition, to come into action against machine 
guns or strong points holding up the advance unexpectedly 
— all this could be done by means of a tank with ease — 
whilst not only could the small Stokes gun with a range of 
500-600 yards be brought forward, but also the 6 in. Stokes 
with a range of 1,200-1,600 yards by the same means, and 
be brought into action firing from the tank. 

" The tank has only one enemy to fear — the high-velocity 
tank gun, firing aimed shots from forward positions. I 
believe this danger can be minimised by means of escort 
aeroplanes attached during an action to every tank, and 
provided with smoke bombs to blind the gun position, if 
unable to silence the gun by machine-gun fire or by means 
of ordinary bombs heavily charged. 

" I have tried to outline some of the more obvious uses 
for which the tank is so admirably suitable. There is a well 
of this information yet untapped, not in staff offices, but 
in the minds of the platoon and company commanders who 
have fought in the first waves of the attack with the tank, 
who have seen the difficulties it has to overcome and how it 
has met them or failed, and why. Nothing has yet been 
produced in this war to equal the tank for doing by machinery 
what has hitherto been done by men; nothing so well fitted 
to economise our man-power and reduce the appalling 
wastage which has hitherto characterised our efforts in 
attack, and with gain instead of loss in efficiency. 

" We want thousands of tanks, both hght and heavy, 
ranging from two miles to eight miles per hour, armed with 


M.G.s, armed with Stokes guns, unarmed and fast- travelling 
for transport of gun teams to emergenpy tactical positions, 
and lastly, a stall' of trained minds to define the tactics of 
the tank — to refute criticism based on ignorance, to collect, 
classify and investigate all available information and sug- 
gestions, so that like an aeroplane^ — every ' new edition ' of 
the tank is an improvement on the last. 

" I have written at some length, but the subject is big 
and attractive enough to be my excuse." 



Early in February 1916 a Conference was held at the War 
Office, to decide as to the training of the personnel for the 
tank units it was now decided to raise. At this Conference, 
Lieutenant- Colonel Swinton and Lieutenant- Colonel R. W. 
Bradley, D.S.O., were ordered to be present. 

At this time, Lieutenant- Colonel Bradley was Comman- 
dant of the Motor Machine Gun Training Centre at Bisley, 
and was in the position to select suitable men for the new 

The number of men required for the first 150 tanks was 
estimated at 1,500, or ten men for each machine, and 150 
junior officers. This personnel was obtained as follows : 600 
men were transferred from the reserves in training at the 
Motor Machine Gun Training Centre and 900 were obtained 
by special enlistment. Thirty officers were transferred from 
the Motor Machine Gun Section, fifteen were detailed by 
G.H.Q., France, and the remainder were obtained by calling 
for volunteers from imits in England and by special selec- 
tion from Cadet units. 

For purposes of secrecy the new formation was " tacked 
on " to the Machine Gun Corps and was christened with the 
terrific name of : " Special Armoured Car Section Motor 
Machine Gun Section." A month later it became known as 
the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps. 

The recruiting was very successful, and this was largely 
due to the untiring energy of Mr. Geoffrey Smith, editor of 
The Motor Cycle, who spared neither time, trouble, nor 
money in getting the men. 

Towards the end of March the training camp was moved 
from Bisley to BuUhouse farm, and at this camp all ele- 



mentary training was carried out, recruits being taught drill, 
the ways of miUtary life, and the Vickers and Hotchkiss 
machine guns as well as the Hotchkiss 6-pounder. 

The first estabhshment issued by the War Office provided 
for 10 companies of 10 tanks each, but within a fortnight 
this was changed to 15 companies of 10 tanks each, the 
companies being grouped in 3 battalions. A little later this 
organisation, at the request of G.H.Q., France, was again 
changed to one of 6 companies of 25 tanks each. 

With a further view of ensuring secrecy it was arranged 
by Lieutenant- Colonel Swinton that no tanks should be 
sent to Bisley, but that a training ground, far removed from 
prying eyes, should be secured. Steps were at once taken to 
find such a ground, and eventually Thetford in Norfolk was 
visited and Lord Iveagh's estate at Elveden selected. The 
necessary training ground here was taken over and was 
known as " the Elveden Explosives Area " ; and round it 
at 200 yards intervals were posted groups of sentries of the 
Royal Defence Corps. 

During the early part of April a certain amount of grum- 
bHng on the part of specially enlisted men occurred at Bisley. 
They had been induced to join an Armoured Car Service, and 
for six weeks they had not even seen the wheel of a car. 
They were asked to exercise a little patience and were pro- 
mised a surprise. At Elveden the surprise was revealed to 
them, and when they had got over their astonishment on 
seeing the first Mark I tank approach them they set down 
to work with a will, which, it is an honour to record, was 
never abandoned by all ranks of the Tank Corps from this 
day on to the conclusion of the war. 

The camp at Elveden was placed just outside the " Ex- 
plosives Area " and no one was allowed to enter the area 
without a special permit. Companies, before they proceeded 
overseas, however, spent their last three weeks within the 
area. As soon as this necessary ground had been taken 
over, three pioneer battaUons were brought to Elveden 
Camp and a complete series of trenches was dug on a front 
of a mile and a quarter, and to the depth of two miles. The 


plan of this work was laid out by Major Tandy and Captain 
Martel, both RE. officers. 

Unfortunately, on account of delay in delivery of tanks, 
constructional defects and repeated requests from G.H.Q., 
France, that all available tanks and crews should be sent out 
to France for the September operations on the Somme, little 
use was made of these trenches, for tactical training. Machine- 
gun firing from tanks with ball ammunition was, however, 
freely carried out, and also 6-pounder practice which, un- 
fortunately, was much hampered by danger restrictions. 

The tank drivers were all drawn from the A.S.C., and the 
711th Company A.S.C. was formed to include these men, 
the workshops, and the M.T. personnel of the Heavy Section. 
The officer in command of this company and in charge of 
all mechanical instruction and driving was Major H. Knothe, 
D.S.O., M.C. 

By the end of May the last company had completed its 
training at Bisley and had moved to Elveden ; the head- 
quarters, having some time prior to this, moved to this place 
and established itself in the stables of Lord Iveagh's mansion 
and in the new almshouses in Elveden village. 

By the beginning of July training was sufficiently ad- 
vanced to give the first tank demonstration ever held. 
Twenty tanks took part in it and advanced in line followed 
by infantry against a section of the instructional trench 
system. The demonstration was a great success and many 
notable persons witnessed it, including Mr. Lloyd George and 
Sir William Robertson. 

This demonstration was shortly afterwards followed by 
a second at which the King attended. His Majesty was 
most anxious that his projected visit should be kept secret, 
but as it was nevertheless necessary to make certain pre- 
parations it was given out at the camp that a very distin- 
guished Russian general was about to visit the tanks. The 
identity of the Russian general was, however, discovered by 
the bulk of the men before the demonstration was concluded, 
much to their pleasure and amusement. 

At the beginning of August Lieutenant- Colonel Brough, 


C.M.G., visited G.H.Q., France, to ascertain the tactics it was 
proposed to employ as regards tanks. Unfortunately his visit 
was fruitless, for no ideas apparently existed on the subject. 
Shortly after his return instructions were received to dis- 
patch the tank companies to France, and to decide on this 
a conference was held at which the following officers were 
present : Major-General Butler, Brigadier- General Burnett- 
Stuart, both from G.H.Q., France ; Lieutenant- Colonel S win- 
ton, Lieutenant-Colonel Bradley, and Lieutenant- Colonel 
Brough. At this Conference it was decided to mobilise the 
companies at Elveden and to dispatch them overseas by half 
companies. The first to leave was C Compa,ny and the 
second D Company, which, respectively, were under the 
commands of Majors Holdford-Walker and Summers. 

Towards the end of August Colonel Swinton was instructed 
to send over to France a staff officer, but as the establish- 
ments only allowed of a commander and one staff captain, 
and as the latter was a very junior officer, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Brough was sent over. Shortly after his arrival he found it 
necessary to wire home for motor-cars, clerks, etc., for he 
had been ordered to take over command of the units in 
France. Captain Kingdon was thereupon sent out to assist 
him, and two clerks and a motor-car were also dispatched. 
By these means were extemporised an advanced headquarters, 
the original headquarters of the Heavy Branch remaining 
in England and never proceeding overseas. 

In October 1916, as already related in Chapter VI, 
Bovington Camp, Wool, was selected as the new training 
centre. Here E, F, G, H, and I Battalions were raised and 
trained during 1916-1917, and J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, and 
R during 1917-1918, the last battalion, the 18th, saihng for 
France in September 1918. 

In 1917, to cope with the steadily increasing number of 
tank units of all descriptions, Worgret Camp, Wareham, and 
Lulworth were taken over, the Depot Reserve Unit being 
established at the former and the Gunnery Camp at the 
latter place. 

The first schools to be formed were the Tank Drivers' 


School, the 6-Pounder School, and the Lewis Gun School, 
but by degrees, as the Tank Corps grew, these developed 
until at the close of the war the following schools had been 
established : 

Tank Drivers and Maintenance School. 

Tank Gunnery School (6-Pounder and Machine Gun). 

Tank Reconnaissance School. 

Tank Signal and Pigeon School. 

Camouflage School. 

Revolver School. 

Gas School. 

Tank Compass School. 
In July 1918 the preparations set on foot to double the 
Tank Corps for 1919 threw a great deal of work on to the 
Training Centre. Thirteen British, three Canadian, and one 
New Zealand Battalion were to be raised, as well as a number 
of subsidiary \mits. In August, in spite of shortage of 
infantry reinforcements, an allotment, given precedence over 
all the other arms, of 4,500 men, was made to the Tank Corps 
Training Centre, so that the raising of the above new units 
might forthwith begin ; besides this, nearly half a million 
poiuids worth of buildings were sanctioned without estimates 
being called for, so important was it now considered that not 
a day should be lost in the Tank Corps preparations for 1919. 
By the date of the armistice about half the building pro- 
gramme was finished, and eight British and one Canadian 
battalion had been raised. 

The following is a summary of the total number of tank 
units and reinforcements raised and trained at the Training 
Centre between November 1916 and November 1918. 

British Tank Battalions 
Canadian Tank Battalions 
American Tank Battalions 
Gun Carrier Companies 
Tank Supply Companies . 
Tank Advanced Workshops 
Tank Salvage Companies . 
American Tank Salvage Companies 
Various Headquarters . . 

Total Tank Units raised 

22 (5th to 26th). 

1 (1st Canadian Tank Battalion). 
3 (301st, 302nd, and 303rd). 

2 ( 1st and 2ud). 
5 (1st to 5th). 

2 (Nos. 4 and 5). 

1 (No. 3). 

2 (306th and 317th). 



The whole of the above units, with the exception of eight 
British and one Canadian Battalion, were sent out to France 
prior to the armistice. 

In all, some 21,000 officers and men passed through the 
Training Centre, 14,000 in formed units, and 7,000 as rein- 
forcements ; besides these, 950 cadets were trained. In 
October 1918 the Training Centre, which from one camp at 
Bovington had grown to include Worgret, Lulworth, and 
Swanage Camps, had on its strength in all ranks and service 
approximately 16,000 men. 

The time required wherein to raise and train a new Tank 
Battalion averaged four months. The system of instruction 
adopted from November 1916 onwards was to start with a 
very thorough individual training and then to pass the 
recruits through the various schools, leaving collective and 
tactical training to be carried out in France. 

Recreational training played an important part in the 
above instruction, and the Training Centre gained a con- 
siderable reputation in the Southern Command for efficiency 
in sports and games. 

In the expansion which commenced on September 1, 1918, 
30 per cent, of the personnel for each new unit was sent to 
the Training Centre from the trained Tank Corps personnel 
in France, and this trained personnel, together with the 
increased numbers of training tanks and other improved 
facilities, would have gone far to effect a more efficient and 
rapid training of the units, before their departure overseas, 
than heretofore. 

Besides raising and training new imits and reinforcements 
the Tank Corps Training Oentre was intimately connected 
with much of the experimental work, armament design, and 
the fittings of all types of tanks from the introduction of the 
Mark V and Medium " A" tanks onwards. The following 
were the main improvements initiated. 

The adaptation of the Hotchkiss machine gun to the tank. 
The invention of the Palmer machine-gun battle-sight. 
The invention of fire-control instruments. 
During the spring and summer of 1917 various experiments 


were carried out at Wool to arrive at the best method of 
demolishing and removing wire entanglements. Eventually 
grapnels were decided upon and were used with great success 
in November at the battle of Cambrai. 

The use of cloud smoke from tanks was also originated at 
the Training Centre, and with the aid of an invention of the 
late Commander Brock was eventually adopted for all tanks, 
and was used on several occasions with effect during the 
summer and autumn operations of 1918. 

For purposes of general interest and education as well as 
for the conversion of the mechanical heathen, a considerable 
number of demonstrations, showing the power of tanks and 
their co-operation with infantry, were given to officers of the 
War Office, Commands and Schools throughout 1918. On 
October 25 this year. His Majesty the King visited Wool to 
witness one of these, and paid the Tank Corps Training Centre 
the great honour of inspecting the various battalions, and 
welcomed many of the men of the British and American 
units assembled by walking amongst them and conversing 
freely with them. 



Tanks, like every other arm of the Army, require a highly 
organised supply service, and being cross-country machines 
they must be served by machines of similar powers of loco- 
motion. This was probably realised before tanks were 
originally dispatched to France in 1916, but, during the 
battles of the Somme, Ancre, and Arras, it was not possible 
to organise any system of cross-country supply on account 
of every machine being required for either fighting or train- 
ing purposes. In February 1917 the first organisation for 
cross-country supply waS formulated. This consisted in allot- 
ting two supply tanks to each company, but the delay in 
the arrival of Mark IV machines prevented this organisation 
taking form until May 1917. 

Supply tanks were first employed at the battle of Messines, 
the Mark I tanks, which had now been discarded as fighting 
machines, being used for this purpose. These machines were 
fitted with large soft steel sponsons made at the Tank Corps 
Central Workshops. During this battle they were not much 
used owing to the limited scope of the operations. 

Between June 1917 and the opening of the Third Battle 
of Ypres each tank battalion received six supply tanks, 
two for each company, but during this battle they did not 
prove a success on account of the appalling conditions of 
the ground, the sponsons continually becoming wedged in 
the shell-holes, which necessitated much digging out to 
relieve them. 

Just prior to the opening of this battle the fu-st of the 
gun-carrier tanks arrived in France, and was dispatched to 
Flanders and attached to the XVIIIth Corps for experiment. 



Later on others followed, until by the end of the year forty- 
four of these machines had been received. 

The idea of the gun-carrier was that of mechanical artil- 
lery, the machine being really a mechanical gun mounting 
capable of carrying a 60-pounder or 6 in. howitzer. Its total 
shell capacity without the gun was 200 6 in. shells, weigh- 
ing approximately 10 tons. 

Considering the difficulties of the ground very good work 
was done by the gun-carriers during the Ypres operations, 
several hundreds of tons of ammunition being carried for- 
ward as well as a few 60-pounders. 

In September a new method of supply was experimented 
with ; this consisted in towing behind any type of tank three 
sledges connected with the roof of the machine by a cable. 
At the battle of Cambrai this method proved a great success, 
and not only were tank supplies hauled forward but also 
telegraph cable and bridging material. 

During the autumn and winter of 1917 much careful 
thought had been devoted both in France and England to 
the question not only of tank supply but of being able to 
carry forward infantry, particularly machine-gunners, in 
armoured carrier tanks ; the result of this was the design of 
a large carrier tank known as the Mark IX and the raising 
of a new unit known as an " Infantry Carrier Company." 

These carrier units were first formed on February 1, 1918. 
The first two companies consisted mostly of Royal Engineer 
personnel, and the next three of infantry. The standard of 
the personnel was very good, about 60 per cent, having 
already seen service overseas. The 1st and 2nd Companies 
proceeded to France about the middle of May, the remaining 
three arriving in June and July. 

The organisation of each of these companies was as 
follows : 

A company headquarters and four sections, each section 
consisting of six Mark IV supply tanks, or tenders, as they 
were sometimes called. The object of these companies was 
laid down in Tank Corps Standing Orders as follows : 


" The Tank Supply Company is a unit of Brigade Troops 
for the carriage of supphes, from the point where wheeled 
vehicles cease, to battalions. The responsibility for main- 
taining battalion supplies rests with Brigade Headquarters. 
The duties of the Brigade Supply Officer will in no way 
be shared by the O.C. Tank Supply Company. The Tank 
Supply Company will be used as a mobile reserve of supplies 
under the immediate control of Brigade Headquarters." 

These supply companies were never used for carrying for- 
ward infantry, as the Mark IX tank did not materialise until 
October 1918 ; they proved, however, of the greatest use 
during all the tank operations of the last year of the war. 

During June the two Gun Carrier Companies were defin- 
itely converted into Supply Companies and were attached 
to the 3rd and 5th Brigades. At the battle of Hamel, on 
July 4, four of these machines did excellent work, carrying 
forward between twenty and twenty-five tons of R.E. material 
and dumping this a few hundred yards behind the final 
objective within half an hour of this objective being cap- 
tured. These machines were driven by four officers and 
sixteen men, and had the material they transported been 
brought up by carrier parties at least 1,200 men would have 
been required ; in man-power alone these four machines thus 
saved 1,184 soldiers, or approximately two infantry bat- 
talions at battle strength. 

On arrival in France the 1st and 2nd Supply Companies 
were posted to the 1st and 4th Tank Brigades, and the 3rd, 
4th, and 5th were sent to Blingel Camp, in the Bermicourt 
area, where good facilities existed for tank driving and main- 
tenance. At about the end of July the 3rd and 5th Com- 
panies were equipped with Mark IV supply tanks, and 
female Mark IV machines fitted with a sledge equipment. 

At the beginning of August the distribution of the various 
supply units was as follows : 

No. 1 Gun Carrier Comptmy . • , . 5th Tank Brigade. 

No. 2 Gun Carrier Company . . . 3rd Tank Brigade. 

No. 1 Tank Supply Company . . .1st Tank Brigade. 

No. 2 Tank Supply Company . . . 4th Tank Brigade. 


No. 3 Tank Supply Company . . . Blingel Camp. 

No. 4 Tank Supply Company . . ,. 2nd Tank Brigade. 

No. 5 Tank Supply Company . . Blingel Camp. 

All these companies, less No. 1 Tank Supply Company and 
No. 2 Gun Carrier Company, took part in the battle of Amiens. 

No. 1 Gun Carrier Company suffered an unfortunate 
experience on August 7. It had moved forward to an 
orchard on the western side of Villers Bretonneux, each of 
its machines being loaded up with explosives of various kinds. 
A shell filed from a German battery in the vicinity of Chipilly 
set fire to one of the camouflage nets, and the result of this 
was that though six out of the twenty-two machines got 
away the remaining sixteen were blown up, the explosion 
being terrific. 

The 3rd Tank Supply Company was allotted to the 
Canadian Corps to carry forward infantry supplies such as 
grenades, S.A.A., and drinking water. The female Mark IV. 
tanks equipped with sledges were attached to the Canadian 
Engineers for the purpose of bringing forward material in 
order to repair the bridges over the Luce river. Owing to 
weak cables this operation proved a failure, most of these 
machines breaking down before they had covered a mile. 

The policy which was first adopted of attaching a section 
of six supply tanks to each battalion did not work well, the 
Company Headquarters was usually left in the air, and soon 
lost touch with its sections. In order to remedy this defect 
from August 9 onwards company commanders were in- 
structed to estabhsh " report centres " well in advance of 
the battlefield. These centres were " baited " by sending 
the mails there ; to obtain news from home it was conse- 
quently necessary for section commanders to send runners 
in to fetch them; by this means touch with the Company 
Headquarters was automatically maintained.^ 

In the battles north of the Somme, commencing on 

' From this it must not be deduced that the officers and men of the Tank 
Corps would not obey orders, but that the officer in command of the Supply 
Companies was a student of human nature. Why order when a simple act 
like this will do the ordering ? 


August 21, much useful work was carried out, the tank- 
drivers having by now become thoroughly expert in driving 
and maintenance. The sections were now properly brigaded, 
each company being looked upon as a unit and not as a mere 
headquarters for four separate units. Proper telephonic 
communication was now established between the sections 
and the company, and consequently much time was saved 
not only within the company itself but by the various units 
it was supplying. 

During all the battles onwards from August 8 to the 
capture of Landrecies the work carried out by the Tank 
Supply Companies and the Gun Carrier Companies was not 
only useful but of great importance, as in many places the 
roads were too bad for mechanical transport. When they 
were not required to bring forward tank supplies they were 
engaged in carrying every sort of ammunition and engineer 
stores, especially through zones which were harassed by 
machine-gun fire and in which, had infantry carrying parties 
been used, many lives would have been lost. 

When the possibilities of these companies became realised, 
infantry commanders were continually asking for their assis- 
tance, preference being given to the gun-carriers on account 
of their greater capacity for light stores. 

The Gun Carrier Companies, besides doing excellent work 
as infantry supply companies, kept both field and heavy 
artillery well supplied. No. 2 Gun Carrier Company carried 
out some very successful heavy sniping by carrying for- 
ward a 6 in. howitzer, and by moving it from place to place 
during the night it both harassed and puzzled the enemy. 
Besides this, several successful gas attacks were carried out 
with the aid of the gun-carriers, which transported the pro- 
jectors and bombs to positions over country which wheeled 
transport could not have negotiated. By using these 
machines it was possible to get in three or more " shoots " 
in one night and to retire out of the danger zone before dawn. 

If in the days of the great Napoleon, when a soldier went 
into action with frequently less than twenty balls in his 
pouch and a couple of spare flints, an Army " crawled on its 


stomach," how much more does it crawl to-day ! When the 
lessons of the war are sorted and tabulated in order of im- 
portance, very near the top, if not at the top itself, will be 
found that of " road capacity," in other words, that victory 
rests with the side which can maintain the broadest com- 
munications. To widen existing roads directly by enlarg- 
ing them or to construct new roads are both works of great 
labour ; they absorb not only time and men but also trans- 
port of every kind, especially in a country like north-eastern 
France, where suitable stone for road-metalling is practically 
non-existent. To do so indirectly is best accomplished by 
a cross-country tractor, that is, by a machine which can 
move on or off a road. With such a machine roads can be 
indefinitely widened ; paradoxically they cease to exist, for 
they are no longer necessary. 

The tank is, first of all, a cross-country tractor, and it is 
curious that none of the contending nations appear to have 
appreciated this until well towards the end of the war, in 
spite of the fact that the reason for the general slowness 
of the advances which followed any initial success was nearly 
always due to inadequacy of supply. 

By the end of March 1918 the German attack " petered 
out " for want of supplies ; by the end of May it again did 
likewise for a similar reason. Had the Germans possessed 
on March 21 and May 27 5,000 to 6,000 efficient cross- 
country tractors, each of which could have carried five tons 
of supplies, all the hosts of brave men, which the United 
States of America could have poured into France, could not 
have prevented a separation of the British and French 
Armies from being effected. Had such a separation taken 
place it is impossible to say what the result might not have 
been ; but what is possible to say is that had the Germans 
" scrapped " half their guns and replaced them by cross- 
country tractors they would have gone nearer winning the 
war than they did. 



With the close of the battle of Cambrai the British Army 
abandoned the offensive, which had been initiated on 
April 9, and a period of passive defence was developed. At 
this time all three Tank Brigades had assembled at or near 
Bray-sur-Somme, where extensive hutments existed and 
where the old devastated area offered excellent facilities for 
training. Towards the end of December a request was made 
by the Tank Corps to establish at Bray a large tank and 
infantry school, so that co-operation between these two arms 
might be secured; further, as artillery ranges were near at 
hand it was felt that a complete tactical unity of action 
between tanks, infantry, artillery, and aeroplanes could now 
be established : besides this. Bray formed an excellent 
strategical centre to the Somme area should the Germans 
at any time launch an attack between the Oise and the 

Early in January 1918 orders were, however, received 
that in place of remaining assembled at one spot the Tank 
Corps was to form a defensive cordon stretching from about 
Roisel to a little south of Bethune — a frontage of some sixty 
miles. In February this line was taken up, tank uiaits being 
distributed as follows : 

Fifth Army, 4th Tank Brigade . . 1st Bn. Doingt wood. 

,, ,, H.Q. Templeux La Fosse 4th Bn. Buire wood. 

„ ,, . . . . . 5th Bn. Buire wood. 

Third Army, 2nd Tank Brigade . . 2nd Bn. Velu wood. 

„ „ H.Q. Thilloy . . .8th Bn. Fremicourt. 

,, ,, . . . . . 10th Bn. Fremicourt. 

3rd Tank Brigade 6th Bn. Wailly. 

G.H.Q. Reserve, H.Q. Henincourt . . 3rd Bn. Bray. 

,, ,, 9th Bn. Bray. 

,, ,, 5th Tank Brigade . . 13th Bn. Bray (unequipped). 

H.Q. Bray, 


MARCH 21, 1918 173 

First Army, 1st Tank Brigade . . 7th Bn. Boyefflea. 

„ ,, H.Q. Boia d'Olhain . . 11th Bn. Bois des Alleux. 
„ „ 12th Bn. Bois de Verdrel. 

It will be seen that by this date the Tank Corps had grown 
from three to five brigades, in all thirteen battalions ; 
machines, however, were short, and the total fighting strength 
in tanks at this time was only 320 Mark IV and 50 Medium 
A Tanks (Whippets) fit for action. 

The general plan was that tank units should co-operate 
with Army and Corps reserves in the deliberate counter- 
attack against tactical points in what was known as the 
battle zone, a belt of ground running several miles in rear 
of and parallel to the forward or outpost zone ; no retire- 
ment from this zone was to be contemplated. Prior to 
March 20 the weather had been fine, the ground was good 
and a thorough reconnaissance had been made of some 1,500 
square miles of country ; supply dumps had been formed 
and communication by wireless, cable, dispatch rider and 
runner established throughout the units of the Tank Corps. 

On March 21 at 5 a.m. the German bombardment opened 
on a front roughly running from La Fere to the river 
Scarpe, with a break round the old Cambrai battlefield. The 
first tanks to be engaged were three forward sections of the 
4th Battalion north-west of St. Emilie, north-west of 
Peiziere, and at Geninwell copse. These came into action 
about noon and fought most gallantly against heavy odds. 
The first section, supported by two companies of the 2nd 
Royal Munster Fusiliers, recaptured a battery of guns near 
Esclairvillers wood ; later on in the day this section assisted 
in the counter-attack of the Connaught Rangers on Ronssoy 
wood ; meanwhile the second section cleared the bridge 
and cutting north-east of Peiziere. Whilst these actions 
were being fought in the Fifth Army area, on the Third Army 
front one company of the 8th Tank Battalion co-operated with 
the 57th Infantry Brigade in a counter-attack on the village 
of Doignies. Zero hour was fixed at 6.40 p.m., but the attack 
was delayed and it was almost dark before the objective 
was reached. The village was cleared of the enemy, but on 


account of the darkness it was never completely occupied by 
our own men and eventually passed back into German hands. 

On the following day, March 22, an Advanced Tank Corps 
Headquarters was opened at Hamencourt, a mile east of 
Doullens, in order to facilitate the battle liaison duties of the 
staff. On this day a most successful and gallant action was 
fought by the 2nd Tank Battalion in the neighbourhood of 
Vaux Vraucourt and Morchies. At 2.45 p.m. orders were 
issued for the 2nd Tank Battalion to advance and counter- 
attack the enemy, who had broken through the line Vaux 
Vraucourt-Morchies and was pushing forward towards 
Beugny. Two companies of infantry were detailed to sup- 
port the tanks, but as eventually these could not be spared 
the tanks went into action alone. The counter-attack began 
to develop around Beugny at about 4.30 p.m. Concentrated 
artillery fire was brought to bear on the tanks, but in spite 
of this they advanced amongst the enemy, put a field battery 
out of action, and by enfilading several trenches full of Ger- 
mans inflicted heavy casualties on them. The enemy was 
eventually driven back behind the Vaux Vraucourt-Morchies 
position, which was then reoccupied by our infantry. Thirty 
tanks took part in this action ; seventeen of these were hit 
and 70 per cent, of casualties suffered by their crews. Heavy 
though these losses were the enemy had suffered severely, 
and more important still his plan of action was upset. 

On the Fifth Army front the penetration effected by the 
enemy caused a rapid withdrawal of our troops, and to cover 
this the 4th and 5th Tank Battalions moved eastwards on 
either side of the Cologne river, which joins the Somme at 
Peronne ; the village of Epehy was cleared of the enemy and 
much valuable time was gained at Roisel and Hervilly by 
tank counter-attacks. The German infantry would not 
face the tanks, and broke whenever they saw them ad- 

On March 23 no tank action was fought on the Third 
Army front. On the Fifth Army front, the 1st Tank Bat- 
talion, which had not yet been engaged, took up a position 
on the reverse slope west of Moislains with machine-gun 


posts pushed out on the forward slope. The enemy, however, 
would not attack the line of tanks but worked round their 
flanks — the 1st Tank Battalion eventually withdrew towards 
Maricourt. The 4th and 5th Tank Battalions covered the 
withdrawal of our infantry on either side of the Cologne river, 
and by the evening ten tanks of the 4th Battalion had con- 
centrated at Clery and those of the 5th Battalion at Brie 
bridge, three miles south of Peronne. Shortly after their 
arrival here this bridge was blown up and the whole of the 
5th Battalion tanks, except three, had to be destroyed for 
lack of petrol. Of these three, one succeeded in crossing the 
bridge after the explosion and the remaining two effected 
their escape via Peronne. All three were lost on the next day. 

The following day, the 8th Tank Battalion was engaged 
in a most successful action south-east of Bapaume. Two 
companies advanced against Bus and Barastre, while a third 
covered the 6th Infantry Brigade's consolidation of a line 
of trenches. All tanks came into action and inflicted heavy 
casualties at close range, the enemy was checked for a con- 
siderable time and the 2nd Division was thus enabled to 
extricate itself from a most difficult position with little loss. 
The enemy was in force, but as was always the case, he 
would not face the tanks, and if he could not work round 
their flanks his advance halted until his guns could be brought 
up to deal with them. 

It was on March 24 that a considerable number of Lewis- 
gun sections were first formed during this battle out of 
tank crews who had lost their machines. The 9th Tank Bat- 
talion handed its machines over to the 3rd Battalion and 
moved out as a Lewis-gun Battalion from Bray to assist 
the 35th Division and the 9th Cavalry Brigade in the defence 
of Montauban and Maricourt. The instructional staff of the 
Tank Driving School which, in February, had moved from 
Wailly to Aveluy, was rapidly formed into Lewis-gun sec- 
tions, and with such tanks as were fit for action held a defen- 
sive line from Fricourt to Bazentin, covering the Albert- 
Bapaume road. The 5th Tank Battalion, south of the 
Somme, now without machines, was also formed into a 


Lewis-gun Battalion as crews were collected. This battalion 
in particular carried out most gallant and useful work, 
forty-five Lewis-gun groups being kept continuously in 
action. Several of these groups lost touch with their head- 
quarters, but continued fighting with any troops in their 
vicinity until March 31. 

On March 25 two companies of the 10th Tank Battalion 
came into action at Achiet-le-Grand and Achiet-le-Petit. 
At the first-named village, with the 42nd Division, one of 
these companies attacked the enemy, who, in large numbers, 
had broken through near Bapaume, and delayed his advance 
for several hours. By this date no fewer than 113 Lewis-gun 
groups had been posted in the La Maisonette — Chaulnes, Bray 
and Pozieres — Contalmaison — ^Montauban — Maricourt areas, 
and during the night twenty more were sent out to hold the 
crossings over the river Ancre between Aveluy and Beau- 
court. At this time Grandecourt and Miraumont were already 
in the enemy's hands and the position was raost precarious. 
These groups held these crossings for several days and in- 
flicted heavy casualties on the enemy each time he attempted 
to force a passage. 

March 26 is an interesting date in the history of the Tank 
Corps, for, on the afternoon of this day, the Whippet Tanks 
made their debut. Twelve of these machines, belonging to 
the 3rd Tank Battalion, moving northwards from Bray were 
ordered to advance through the village of Colincamps to 
clear up the situation, which was very obscure. About 300 
of the enemy were met with advancing on the village in 
several groups ; these were taken completely by surprise, and 
on seeing the rapidly moving tanks fled in disorder, making 
no attempt at resistance. The Whippets then patrolled 
towards Serre and after dispersing several strong enemy 
patrols withdrew, having suffered no losses in tanks or per- 
sonnel. This action was particularly opportune, as it checked 
an enveloping movement directed against Hebuterne at a 
time when there was a gap in our line. 

Save for a few minor tank engagements on March 27, 28, 
29, 30, and 31, so far as the Tank Corps was concerned, the 





i„ _ ,_„•' tjyjt^a. -v* . . -- 


Second Battle of the Somme had come to an end, and, 
before closing this chapter, it is of interest to deduce the 
main lessons learnt from these the first defensive operations 
the Tank Corps had ever taken part in. 

On March 21, tanks were too scattered ever to pull their 
fuU weight. To hit with them as they then were distributed 
was like hitting out with an open hand in place of a clenched 
fist, and when the blow fell there was no time to hit and 
simultaneously close the fingers. Out of a total of some 
370 tanks only 180 came into action. The continual with- 
drawal of tanks by infantry formations in place of moving 
them forwards amongst the enemy resulted in many machines 
being worn out before they had fired a shot ; this was a 
faulty use of an offensive weapon. 

The two main lessons learnt were : firstly, that speed and 
circuit are the two essentials for an open-warfare machine ; 
and secondly, one which has already been mentioned but 
which is so important that it is worth mentioning again, 
namely, that no great Army, such as the Germans massed 
against us on March 21, can depend on road and rail supply 
only. Consequently unless these means of supply are 
supplemented by cross-country mechanical transport, that 
is, transport which is independent of road and rail, the 
greatest success will always be limited by the endurance of 
the horses' legs. Men without supplies are an incumbrance, 
and guns and machine guns without ammunition are mere 
scrap iron. Had the Germans after March 26 been able to 
supply their troops mechanically across country, there can 
be little doubt that their advance would have been continued, 
for we could not have stopped it, and they might well have 
won the war. Fatigue may stop an advance gradually, but 
lack of supplies will stop it absolutely — this is the second and 
greatest lesson of the Second Battle of the Somme, if not 
of the entire war. 



In battle, co-operation between the commander and his 
troops, and between the troops themselves, depends very 
largely on the efficiency of the signal organisation. In a 
formation such as the Tank Corps, the chief duty of which 
was close co-operation with the infantry, the necessity for a 
simple though efficient communication was fully realised by 
Colonel Swinton as far back as February 1916, when he 
wrote his tactical instructions for the use of tanks, extracts 
from which have been given in Chapter IV. Though time 
for instruction was limited, special wireless apparatus was 
prepared and men trained in its use, but as orders were 
received not to equip the tanks with this apparatus they 
were dispatched to France in August 1916 without it. 

On September 11 the first instructions relative to tank 
signals were published with the Fourth Army operation 
orders ; they read as follows : 

" From tanks to infantry and aircraft : 

Flag Signals 

Red flag . . . Out of action. 

Green flag . . . Am on objective. 

Other flags . . . Are inter-tank signals. 

Lamp Signals 

Series of T's . . Out of Action. 

Series of H's . . . Am on objective. 

A proportion of the tanks will carry pigeons." 

The use made of these signals is not recorded, and no time 
was available, until after operations were concluded in 
November, wherein to organise more efficient methods. 



In January 1917 steps were taken to introduce into the 
Heavy Branch some system of signaling in spite of the many 
difficulties, the chief of which were : 

(i) No personnel other than the tank crews could be 

(ii) At most only two months were available for training. 

(iii) Neither the Morse nor semaphore codes could be read 
by infantry. 

The whole question, after careful consideration, was fully 
dealt with in " Training Note No, 16," already mentioned. 

The entire system of field signalling was divided under 
three main headings : 

(i) Local. — Between tanks and tanks and tanks and the 
attacking infantry ; also between the Section commander 
and the transmitting station, should one be employed. 

(ii) Distant. — Between tanks and Company Headquarters, 
selected infantry and artillery observation posts, balloons, 
and possibly aeroplanes. 

(iii) Telephonic. — Between the various tank headquarters 
and those of the units with which they were co-operating. 

The means of signalling adopted were as follows : 

For local signalling coloured discs — red, green, and white. 
One to three of these signals in varying combinations could 
be hoisted on a steel pole. In all thirty-nine code signals 
could thus be sent, e.g. white = " Forward " ; red and white 
= " Enemy in small numbers " ; red, white, green = " Enemy 
is retiring." These codes were printed on cards and distri- 
buted to tank crews and to the infantry. Besides these 
" shutter signals " were also issued, but as they entailed 
both the sender and reader understanding the Morse code 
they were seldom used. The chief local system of com- 
munication was by runner, and it remained so until the end 
of the war. 

Distant signalling was carried out by means of the Aldis 
daylight lamp, and as message-sending was too complicated 
a letter code was used, thus — a series of D.D.D. . . D's 
meant " Broken down," Q.Q.Q. . . Q's " Require supplies." 
Generally speaking, until November 1917, distant signalling 


was carried out by pigeons, which, on the whole, proved 
most rehable as long as the birds were released before sunset ; 
at a later hour than this they were apt to break their journey 
home by roosting on the way. 

In February 1917 Captain J. D. N. Molesworth, M.C., was 
attached to the Heavy Branch to supervise the training in 
signalling. This officer remained with the Tank Corps 
until the end of the war, and in 1918 was promoted to the 
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed Assistant Director 
of Army Signals in 1918. Under his direction classes in 
signalling were at once started and considerable progress was 
made in the short time available before the battle of Arras 
was fought. 

In this battle the various means of communication laid 
down were put to the test of practical experience. The tele- 
phone system was described by the 1st Tank Brigade Com- 
mander as " heart-breaking." " Many times it was totally 
impossible to hear or to be heard when speaking to Corps 
Headquarters at a distance of five to six miles." Pigeons 
were most useful, the Aldis lamp was found difficult, and 
many messages were sent from tank to tank, and in some 
cases to infantry with good results, by means of the coloured 

The experiences gained pointed to the absolute necessity 
of allotting sufficient personnel to battalions for purposes of 
signalling and telephonic communication. 

The result of these experiences was that in May the first 
Tank Signal Company was formed, the personnel being pro- 
vided from those already trained in the tank battalions, to 
which a few trained Signal Service men were added. The 
formation of this company was shortly followed by that 
of the 2nd and 3rd Companies, the 2nd Company taking 
part in the battle of Messines. 

In May the first experiments in using wireless signalling 
from and to tanks were carried out at the Central Workshops 
at Erin, various types of aerials being tested. In July a 
wireless-signal officer was appointed to the Tank Corps 
and he at once set to work to get ready six tanks fitted 


with wireless apparatus for the impending Ypres opera- 

These signal tanks, when completed, were allotted to the 
Brigade Signal Companies, and in isolated cases, during the 
battle, came into operation, but in the main they did not 
prove a great success on account of the extreme difficulty of 
the ground. Eventually these tanks were placed at different 
points along the battle front and were used as observation 
posts by the Royal Flying Corps, wireless being employed 
to inform the anti-aircraft batteries in rear whenever enemy's 
aeroplanes were seen approaching our lines. Many wireless 
messages were sent and much experience was gained by means 
of this work. 

By the end of September, on account of signalling equip- 
ment being obtained, it was possible to carry out training 
on much better lines than heretofore. This was fortunate, 
for it enabled intensive signalling training to be carried out 
prior to the battle of Cambrai. During this battle a much 
more complete system of signals was attempted, and wire- 
less signalling proved invaluable in keeping in touch with 
rear headquarters and also in sending orders forward. On 
the first day of this battle a successful experiment in laying 
telegraph cable from a tank was carried out, five tons of 
cable being towed forward by means of sledges, the tank 
carrying 120 poles, exchanges, telephones, and sundry 
apparatus from our front line to the town of Marcoing. 

The signalling experiences gained during the battle of 
Cambrai proved of great value, the most important being 
that it became apparent that it was next to useless to at- 
tempt to collect information from the front of the battle 
line. Even if this information could be collected, and it was 
most difficult to do so, it was so local and ephemeral in im- 
portance as to confuse rather than to illuminate those who- 
received it. Collecting points about 600 yards behind the 
fighting tanks were found to be generally the most suitable 
places for establishing wireless and visual signalling stations. 

At these stations officers were posted to receive messages 
and to compile them into general reports, which from time 


to time were transmitted by wireless to the headquarters 

After the battle of Cambrai the 4th Brigade Signal Com- 
pany was formed. This Company was the first one to have 
a complete complement of trained Signal Service officers and 
men allotted to it. It carried out exceptionally good work 
during the operations in March 1918. 

At this time the complete organisation of signals in the 
Tank Corps raay be shown graphically as follows : 

A. D. Signals 

(Technical Instructions, Posting of Officers and Men, 
Control of all Signal Stores) 

Ist Tank Brigade 








Signal Company 

(Tank Bde. Signals 






stores, erection 

and mainten- 

ance of lines. 

W.T. Stations). 

1 1 


§ . 




a . o 

i i 

->-l 01 
-3 g 

'■% " 






+3 ^ 



.2 a 



g T3 

2 « 


Early in 1918 the type of wireless apparatus as used in 
the signal tanks was changed to C.W. (continuous wave) sets, 
these being more compact, and greater range of action being 
possible with the small aerials the tanks had to use. 

Eight of these C.W. sets were issued to each Brigade 
Signal Company, and training in their use was carried out 
up to the commencement of the August operations. On 
the whole they proved a success and justified their adoption, 
but as experience was gained it became evident that some- 
thing better and stronger was wanted. 


In September a scheme was devised" whereby the entire 
signal organisation of the Tank Corps was to be recast so as 
to fit in with the new tank group system, which was then 
being worked out for 1919. This organisation included 
Group Signal Companies and much larger Brigade Signal 
Companies than had hitherto been used, and the main type 
of apparatus that this organisation was to use was wireless. 
Only one set of wireless to each tank company was to be 
employed actually in tanks, the other stations being carried 
forward in box cars so as to render them more mobile. 

The importance of signalling in a formation such as the 
Tank Corps cannot be over-estimated, and this importance 
wiU increase as more rapid-moving machines are introduced, 
for, unless messages can be transmitted backwards and 
forwards without delay, many favourable opportunities for 
action, especially the action of reserves, will be lost. Making 
the most of time is the basis of all success, and this cannot 
be accomplished unless the commander is in the closest 
touch with his fighting and administrative troops and 



The existence of the French Tank Corps was due to the untiring 
energy of one man — Colonel (now General) Estienne. On 
December 1, 1915, this officer, then commanding the 6th 
French Divisional Artillery, addressed a letter to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the French Armies in which he expressed 
his firm belief that an engine of war, mechanically propelled 
and protected by armour, capable of transporting infantry 
and guns, was the solution to the deadlock on the Western 
Front. The idea of the machine in Colonel Estienne's mind 
was the result of his work throughout the year 1915, during 
which period he had seen Holt tractors in use with British 
artillery units. 

On December 12, 1915, Colonel Estienne was given an 
interview at G.Q.G., the French General Headquarters, 
where he set forth his theory of mechanical warfare. On 
the 20th of this month he visited Paris to discuss the details 
of his machine with the engineers of the Schneider firm ; 
but it was not until February 25, 1916, that the Department 
for Artillery and Munitions decided to place with this firm 
an order for 400 of these armoured vehicles. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Estienne returned to his command, 
the 3rd Corps Artillery, before Verdun, but still kept in un- 
official touch with the manufacturers. Two months later 
he learned that a similar number of cars, but of a different 
pattern, were to be made by the St. Chamond works. These 
machines were of a heavier type with a petrol-electric drive. 

In June 1916 the French Ministry of Munitions, which had 
meanwhile been created, decided on an experimental and 
instructional area at Marly-le-Roi. Later on, a depot for the 
reception of stores was established at Cercottes. On Sep- 



tember 30, Colonel Estienne was promoted to the rank of 
General and gazetted " Commandant de I'Artillerie d'Assaut 
aux Armees " and was appointed the Commander-in-Chief's 
delegate to the Ministry of Munitions in matters connected 
with tanks ; he thus became the official connecting link 
between the armies in the field and the constructional 
organisation of the Ministry. 

In October a training centre was established at Champlieu 
on the southern edge of the forest of Compi^gne, and it was 
here that the first tank units were assembled on December 1 , 
1916. During the succeeding months, Schneider (see 
Plate IV) and St. Chamond (see Plate IV) machines con- 
tinued to arrive, and training was carried out at this camp 
until the German offensive of 1918. 

On June 20 a tank establishment was sent to the Ministry 
of Munitions and was approved of a month later. This 
establishment comprised four Schneider battalions and four 
St. Chamond battalions, and the creation of two tank train- 
ing centres besides Champlieu, namely, Martigny and Mailly 

Meanwhile, General Estienne in June visited England, 
and having seen the British Mark I machine was convinced 
of the necessity of a lighter tank. This tank was the result 
of an idea he had in mind, namely, of producing on the 
battlefield waves of skirmishers in open order ; each skir- 
misher to be clad in armour, and to be armed with a machine 
gun which could be used with uninterrupted vision in all 
directions. The weight of armour necessitated an auxiliary 
means of motion ; this, in its turn, gave rise to the necessity 
for another man to drive the machine. These views General 
Estienne laid before the Renault firm in July 1916, and at 
the same time he urged the Ministry to accept his proposed 
light tank, but without success. Complete designs were, 
however, prepared and on November 27 General Estienne 
was able to propose to Marshal Joffre the construction of a 
large number of light tanks for future operations and to 
inform him of the existence of the design of such a machine ; 
in fact, 150 had already been ordered as " Command " tanks 


for the heavy battaUons (see Plate VI). Still the Ministry 
was not convinced, and it was not until further trials had 
taken place that, in May 1917, an order for 1,150 was 
authorised. This number was increased in June to 3,500, 
when a new sub-department of the Ministry of Munitions 
known as " Le Sous-Direction d'Artillerie " was formed to 
deal with the production and design of tanks. 

In spite of all General Estienne's endeavours, he was still 
experiencing from certain adherents of the old school, the 
thinkers in " bayonets and sabres," that unbending opposi- 
tion which had proved so formidable an antagonist to the 
progress and expansion of the British Tank Corps, and it 
was not until the battle of Cambrai had been fought, in 
November 1917, that the French Ministry of Munitions was 
finally convinced of the value of the tank. Opposition now 
ceased, and in order to accelerate the output, the firms of 
Renault, Schneider, and Berliet were all engaged in the 
manufacture of light chars d'assauts. 

In December 1917 it was decided to form 30 light tank 
battalions of 72 fighting and 3 wireless signal machines 
each. Of these 30 battalions 27 were in the field and the 
remaining 3 undergoing their preliminary training at Cer- 
cottes on the date of the signing of the armistice. 

The operations of the French Tank Corps may be divided 
into three well-defined periods : 

(i) First period, 1917, birth and infancy of the Schneider 
and St. Chamond types. 

(ii) Second period, first half of 1918, adolescence and 
maturity of the Schneider and St. Chamond, and the infancy 
of the Renault type. 

(iii) Third period, second half of 1918, adolescence and 
maturity of the Renault machine. 

During the first period three battles were fought : 

On April 16, 1917, the French tanks fought their first 
engagement, taking part in the operations of the Fifth 
French Army in the attempted penetration on the Chemin 
des Dames. Eight Schneider companies were employed. 
Three of these were to operate between the Craonne Plateau 

Plate IV 


.«> i -_b1£r-j^eiJK 




and the Miette, and five between the Miette and the Aisne. 
The former companies failed to get into action and suffered 
heavy losses from the enemy's artillery, which from the 
heights of the Craonne plateau commanded their advance. 
The latter companies succeeded in crossing the second and 
third lines of the enemy's defences, but in spite of their 
remaining for a considerable time in front of the infantry 
these troops could not follow owing to the enemy's heavy 
machine-gun fire. At nightfall the tank companies were 
rallied, having sustained serious losses in personnel and 
materiel. Bodies of infantry had been specially detailed to 
escort the tanks and prepare paths for their advance, but 
their training had been limited and their efforts were in- 

On May 5 one St. Chamond and two Schneider companies 
took part in a hurriedly prepared operation with the Sixth 
Army. The Schneider companies led the infantry in a 
successful attack on Laffaux hill, and of the sixteen St. 
Chamond tanks detailed for the action only one crossed the 
German trenches. 

Between May and October preparations were made by 
the Sixth French Army fqr an attack on the west of the 
Chemin des Dames, and for this attack infantry were trained 
with the tanks at Champlieu and special detachments, 
known as troupes (Taccompagnement, were instructed in the 
ways and means of assisting the tanks over the trenches. 

The attack, which became known as the battle of Mal- 
maison, was fought on October 23. Five companies of tanks 
took part in it under the orders of Colonel Wahl, who had 
recently been appointed to command the Artillerie d'Assaut 
with the Sixth Army. This command was the origin of 
what later became a Tank Brigade Headquarters, which 
corresponded with a Group Headquarters in the final 
organisation of the British Tank Corps. 

In this battle the Schneider company operated with 
success, but the St. Chamond machines were a failure, only 
one or two reaching the plateau. On the 25th the St. 
Chamonds were used again. 


Generally speaking, it was considered that the French 
heavy tanks had justified their construction, nevertheless 
many stiU doubted their utility when the victory of Cambrai, 
on the British front, dispelled all doubts in the French mind. 

The second period now opened and defensive reconnais- 
sances were undertaken along the French front in view of 
the expected German offensive. 

In March 1918 all available tanks were concentrated 
behind the front of the Third French Army as counter-attack 
troops, and in this capacity took part in the following minor 
operations, which were chiefly undertaken to recapture 
features of local tactical importance : on April 5 at Sau- 
villers ; on April 7 at Grivesnes ; on April 8 at Senecat 
wood, and on May 28 at Cantigny in co-operation with 
American troops. 

Following the great blow struck at the junction of the 
British and French Armies in March the German General Staff 
decided to attack the French on May 27. It would appear that 
this attack was at first intended only to secure the heights 
south of the river Vesle, but that by the 29th, owing to its 
astonishing initial success, it was decided to push it forward 
with the ultimate intention of capturing Paris and so ending 
the war before America could develop her full strength. In 
support of this intention there is evidence that a council of 
war was held in the recaptured area at which the Kaiser, 
Crown Prince, Hindenburg and Ludendorff were present 
and at which it was decided to exploit the success gained to 
its utmost, not, however, losing sight of the original plan, 
which was to include the capture of Reims. This offensive 
may be considered to have worn itself out by June 4, on 
which date the Germans had developed a salient forty kilo- 
metres deep on a forty kilometres front. The old capital 
of France, however, remained in French hands and its 
occupation denied to the German forces holding the salient 
a most needed line of supply. 

On June 9 the attack was extended, being directed against 
the Third French Army between Noyon and Montdidier. 
Behind this Army four heavy tank battalions had been 

JULY 15, 1918 189 

assembled. The first and second lines soon fell into the 
enemy's hands, and the French troops, which had been 
detailed for counter-attack, were rapidly absorbed in the 
defence. On the 10th reinforcements were hurried forward, 
and on the 11th General Mangin launched his tank and 
infantry counter-attack. This battle continued until the 
13th, and in spite of the many difficulties 111 out of the 144 
tanks assembled started at zero hour. Losses in machines 
were heavy and about 50 per cent, of their crews became 
casualties, but in spite of this and the fact that the tanks 
rapidly outdistanced the infantry, a heavy blow was in- 
flicted on the enemy, whose offensive definitely broke down. 

In the action of June 11 the Schneider and St. Chamond 
tanks reached the zenith of their career. From now onwards, 
though they continued to be fought, they gradually ceased 
to be used as units, becoming mixed with Renault machines 
until finally, in October 1918, the two remaining mixed bat- 
talions were armed with British Mark V star tanks ; these 
two battalions, however, never took the field. 

In order to stop the enemy's onrush on May 27, two 
battalions of Renault tanks were hurried up by road to the 
north-eastern fringes of the forest of Villers-Cotterets, and 
on May 31 they made their debut, two companies co-operat- 
ing with colonial infantry on the plateau east of Cravangon 
farm. From this date on to June 15, these two battalions 
continued to act on the defensive with tired troops ; never- 
theless they succeeded in preventing a further advance of 
the German Armies. This closes the second period. 

During the first fortnight of July the 3rd and 5th Renault 
Battalions were moved to the battle area, the former being 
attached to the Fifth French Army, south of Dormans, and 
the latter to the Tenth. These machines came into action 
on the 15th, 16th, and 17th of the month. 

On July 15 the Germans launched their final great attack 
of the war, the blow falling between Chateau-Thierry and 
Reims. The French Armies involved in this battle were 
holding the following sectors : 

(i) The Tenth Army, between the Aisne and the Ourcq. 


(ii) The Sixth Army, between the Ourcq and the Marne. 

(iii) The Fifth Army, between the Marne and Reims. 

(iv)' The Fourth Army, east of Reims. 

The warning order to concentrate his units was received 
by the G.O.C., French Tank Corps, on July 14. At that time 
the G.O.C. Tenth French Army had at his disposal five heavy 
battalions and three light, and the Fifth and Sixth French 
Army respectively now received one heavy and three light 
battalions. The total number of tank battalions available 
was, therefore, seven heavy battalions and nine light ones. 

The main attack was to be made by the Tenth French 
Army, whilst the Sixth and Fifth Armies were to intervene, 
when the time was ripe, in order to harry the enemy in a 
retirement which would be inevitable if the attack of the 
Tenth Army was successful. The entire operation was to 
be based on tanks, which were to be engaged to the last 
machine. As this was the greatest French tank battle 
fought during the war it is interesting to enter, in some 
detail, into the operations of the tanks allotted to the French 
Tenth Army. 

On July 14, when orders were issued for the concentration 
of tanks on the Tenth French Army front, Colonel Chede- 
ville, commanding the 2nd Tank Brigade, was with the 
Third French Army. He had at his disposal three St. 
Chamond battalions, the 10th, 11th, and 12th, two Schneider 
battalions, the 3rd and 4th, and one complete Light Brigade 
comprising the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Renault battalions, and the 
1st Schneider battalion. Of these the first five were in the 
First and Third French Army areas, and had suffered severely 
in the counter-attack of June 11. Having received his 
orders. Colonel Chedeville at once assembled his battalion 
commanders and explained to them the situation. At 6 p.m. 
a further conference was held at which the proposed sectors 
of attack were allotted for reconnaissance. These recon- 
naissances were completed by 6 p.m. on the following day, 
and on them was based " Army Operation Order No. 243," 
in which tank units were allotted as follows : 


1st Corps 


3rd Heavy Tank Battalion 

(27 tanks). 

Allotted to 153rd Division. 

12th Heavy Tank Battalion 

(30 tanks) 
11th Heavy Tank Battalion 

(30 tanks) 
4th Heavy Tank Battalion 

(48 tanks) 
1st Heavy Tank BattaUon 

(48 tanks) 

XXth Corps 

Allotted to 2nd American Division. 

„ ,, 2nd American Division. 

„ ,, Moroccan Division. 

„ „ 1st American Division. 

XXXth Corps 

Allotted to 38th Division. 

10th Heavy Tank Battalion 
(24 tanks) 

In Army Reserve in the region of V illers-Cotterets — Fleury 

1st Light Tank BattaUon (45 

2nd Light Tank Battalion (40 


3rd Light Tank Battalion (45 

The assembly positions from north to south of the various 
units were as follows : 

3rd Heavy Tank Battalion 
12th Heavy Tank BattaUon 
11th Heavy Tank Battalion 

4th Heavy Tank BattaUon 
1st Heavy Tank BattaUon 

10th Heavy Tank Battalion 
1st Light Tank Battalion 

2nd Light Tank BattaUon 

3rd Light Tank BattaUon 

Bavine south-west of Montigny-Lengrain. 

Ravine north of Mortefontaine. 

Two Companies Bavine Longavesne and 

Lepine farm, 1 Company ravine 1 kilo- 
metre north of Soucy. 
Northern fringes of the forest of Villers- 

Cotterets south-east of Vivieres. 
Maison Forestiere, 200 metres north of the 

railway on the road from Villers to 

Cross-roads south-east of the Cordeliers 

cross in Villers- Cotterets forest. 
Northern edge of Villers- Cotterets forest, 

south-west of Vivieres, ready to attack 

in the wake of the Moroccan Division. 
Northern edge of forest south-west of 

Vivieres ready to follow 2nd American 

St. George's cross, ready to support either 

the 48th Division or the Xlth Corps. 


Owing to the failure of the Military Transportation 
Authorities great delay was occasioned in the arrival of 
several units, and in some cases tanks had to be left behind. 
Generally speaking, detraining stations were not far enough 
forward ; this resulted in the 1st and 3rd Light Battalions 
arriving late at their destinations. 

During the night of July 17-18, the various units pro- 
ceeded to their starting-points in rear of their respective 
lines of attack. 

3rd Heavy Tank Battalion .-> Bandry-Saconin et Breuil-Vauxbuin. 

153rd Division . . ./ "^ 

11th Heavy Tank Battalion .-i 

12th Heavy Tank Battalion . vCutry — Missy aux Bois Ploisy. 

Ist American Division . .) 

4th Heavy Tank Battahon . |g^ j,.^^^^ Aigle-Chaudun-Villemontoire. 

Moroccan Division ./ 

1st Heavy Tank Battalion .\Chavigny — Beaurepaire Forest — Vierzy — 

2nd American Division ./ Tigny. 

10th Heavy Tank Battalion . -i Longpont — Villers Helen — Le Plessier 

38th and 48th Divisions ./ Huleu. 

The attack was launched at 4.35 a.m. in a slight fog which 
accentuated its surprise. There was no artillery bombard- 
ment. At 7.30 a.m., owing to the difficulties in communica- 
tion and the rapidity of the advance, the Light Tank Bat- 
talions in Army reserve were placed at the disposal of the 
XXth and XXXth Corps in order to support the Divisions 
which had penetrated the deepest. 

In this attack the enemy's resistance was not unusually 
stubborn and the tanks and infantry advanced to a con- 
siderable depth without difficulty. Several tanks of the 
12th Heavy Battalion fell out by the way, but those of the 
10th succeeded beyond expectation in negotiating the diffi- 
cult ground in the neighbourhood of Longpont. Of the 
Renault battalions only the first came into action, being 
launched at 7 p.m. in an attack on Vauxcastille ravin in 
which it succeeded in leading the infantry forward to a 
depth of three to four kilometres. 

Of the 324 tanks which were concentrated in the Tenth 
French Army Sector, 225 were engaged on July 18. Of these 


July le*:^ I9i8. 

^ Scale^ of Yards 

2000 4000 6000 

JULY 18, 1918 193 

102 became casualties, 62 being put out of action by artil- 
lery fire. In personnel the losses were about 25 per cent, of 
the effectives engaged. 

On July 19, composite units were formed and 105 machines 
took part in this day's fighting, which consisted in divisional 
attacks on limited objectives launched at various hours 
during the day. By now the enemy's resistance had in- 
creased so much that several of the tank battalions 
suffered heavily. The 3rd Heavy Battalion had, by the 
end of the day, lost all its remaining tanks save two, but in 
sustaining these casualties it had pushed the line forward 
to the Chaussee Brunehaut. In the 12th Heavy Battalion 
only one machine reached its final objective. In spite of 
this severe resistance the attack was a great success. Of the 
105 tanks operating fifty were hit by shell fire, and casualties 
amongst crews totalled up to 22 per cent, of the personnel 

On the following day only small local counter-attacks were 
carried out; in these thirty-two tanks took part, of which 
seventeen were hit and no less than 52 per cent, of their 
crews became casualties. 

On July 21 the XXth Corps carried out a prepared attack, 
the first objective being the line Buzancy — eastern edge of 
Concrois wood — Hartennes wood, and the second the line 
of Chacrise. The attack was launched without artillery 
preparation and the villages of Tigny and Villemontoire were 
captured, but later on retaken by the enemy. During this 
day's fighting 100 tanks were engaged, of which thirty-six 
were hit ; losses in personnel amounted to 27 per cent, of 

On the evening of the 21st it was decided to withdraw 
all tanks into Army reserve so that they might refit for a 
projected attack on the 23rd. This attack was launched at 
5 a.m., the XXth and XXXth Corps taking part. The chief 
characteristic of this day's fighting was that the attack was 
made against an enemy occupying a defensive position 
supported by a very strong force of artillery. The result of 
this was that no fewer than forty-eight tanks out of eighty- 


two were hit. It, however, must be remembered that during 
the six succeeding days of battle the tank units, attached 
to the Tenth French Army, had exhausted themselves, having 
practically fought to the last machine and last man. On 
the evening of the 23rd they were withdrawn in Army re- 
serve, and three days later were placed in G.H.Q., reserve. 

Meanwhile the Sixth French Army had conformed to the 
requirements of the main attack. The tank units of this 
Army were, on the evening of July 14, placed under the 
orders of Commandant Michel ; they comprised the follow- 
ing battalions : 

503rd Renault Regiment : 7th, 8th, and 9th Battalions. 

13th St. Chamond Battalion. 

On July 15, company commanders reconnoitred the front 
of attack, the tanks meanwhile being got ready for entrain- 
ment. On July 18 all units were in position with the in- 
fantry units to which they had been allotted, as follows : 

7th Light Battalion . . .2 Companies to the 2nd Division. 

8th „ „ ... 3 ,, „ 47th 

9th „ „ ... 1 „ ,, 164th 

2 „ „ 63rd 

13th Heavy Battalion . . 1 „ ,, 47th 

2 Companies in Army reserve. 

The 2nd and 47th Divisions were in the Ilnd Corps, whilst 
the 63rd and 164th Divisions were in the Vllth Corps. 

At zero hour plus thirty minutes the tanks left their 
starting-points. The 7th and 8th Light Battalions operated 
effectively in the capture of the heights west of Neuilly St. 
Front and hill 167. The attack of No. 325 Company of 
the 9th Light Battalion, operating with the 47th Division, 
was brilliantly executed north of Courchamps. 

In the evening the tanks rallied, the attack being con- 
tinued with all available machines on the following morning. 

As a general rule a section of five tanks was affiliated to 
each attacking battalion. This policy continued to the end 
of the operations on July 26, when the regiment was with- 
drawn to rest, worn out more by " trekking " than by 
fighting. The casualties in this sector were extremely light. 

When the front of the attack, launched by the Germans, 


on July 15, became known to the French Higher Command, 
a Light Regiment of tanks, consisting of the 4th and 6th 
Battahons, was hurriedly dispatched from the Sixth French 
Army area to the Fourth Army east of Reims. The 5th 
Battalion engaged one company with the 73rd Infantry 
Division of the Sixth' French Army in the recapture of 
Janvier wood, south of Dormans, on July 15, and two com- 
panies on July 16 and 17, in " mopping up " in the direction 
of Bois de Conde, east of Chateau-Thierry. 

When it was realised that the German attack east of 
Reims had failed, the 4th and 6th Battalions were hurriedly 
transported by road, between July 16 and 19, south of the 
Marne, south-west of Reims, to take part in local counter- 
attacks. These attacks were entrusted to the Ninth French 
Army, which had taken over command of all French troops 
south of the Marne, and had at its disposal the 4th, 5th, and 
6th Light Tank Battalions, and two companies of heavy 
tanks, which had been rapidly sent up by train from St. 
Germaine between Epernay and Reims. 

Two sections of the 4th Light Battalion were engaged on 
July 18 with two battalions of the 7th Infantry Regiment ; 
two on July 20, with the 97th and 159th Regiments ; and 
one on the 19th, with the 131st Division — all in the neighbour- 
hood of the Bois de Leuvrigny south of the Marne. Later, 
on July 23, sections of the 4th Battalion were employed 
with British troops — the 186th Infantry Brigade in the 
attack on Marfaux and with the 56th and 60th Battalions 
of the chasseurs- a-pied at Connetreuil, whilst, on the same 
date, two sections of the 6th Battalion attacked with units 
of the 15th British Division between Espilly and Marfaux, 
and two more were employed unsuccessfully with the 37th 
Infantry Regiment against Fauants farm. 

So ends the account of the tank actions in the battle of 

This great victory, from a tank point of view, had a stu- 
pendous influence on succeeding operations, owing to : 

(i) The eagerness with which Infantry Commanders now 
clamoured for tanks. 


(ii) The speeding up of the formation and training of new 
tank battalions. 

From this date on, battalions of Renault tanks became 
available at the rate of one a week ; this resulted in tired 
battalions being speedily replaced by fresh ones, consequently 
they were never so completely worn "out as was the case in 
the British Tank Corps, which only received two fresh 
battalions between August and November 1918, one of 
which arrived too untrained ever to go into action. 

The operations from now on will be very briefly described, 
as space does not permit of elaboration. It is, however, 
of interest that these tank actions should be enumerated, 
for they show that, without the assistance of the tank, a 
deadlock would have re-occurred. 

On August 1, 45 French tanks took part in an engage- 
ment at Grand Rozoy. Then came the great British tank 
attack of August 8, in which the First and Tenth French 
Armies co-operated, 110 French tanks taking part on this 
day and the following, 80 advancing with the infantry a 
distance of 18 kilometres on the south of the Roye-Amiens 
road, whilst 30 made a 5-kilometre advance near Montdidier. 
Between August 16 and 18 the attack developed west of 
Roye; here 60 Renault and 32 Schneider machines were 
engaged ; co-operation with the infantry was, however, 
difficult on account of the broken nature of the old battle- 
field across which the attack was now being pushed. 

The next operation was a continuation of the Tenth 
Army's offensive ; it took place between the Oise and the 
Aisne, beginning on August 20, and being continued inter- 
mittently up to and including September 3. On the 20th 
and 22nd, 12 Schneider, 28 St. Chamond, and 30 Renault 
tanks were engaged north of Soissons. 

During the week commencing August 28, three Light Bat- 
talions advanced five kilometres between the Aisne and the 
Aillette, 305 machines being employed at different times 
during these operations. 

The next operation in which tanks were engaged was the 
cutting off of the St. Mihiel salient, French tanks being 


used with the Second French and American Armies. During 
the two^days' fighting, September 12 and 13, some 140 tanks 
took part in the battle. 

On September 14, the Tenth French Army resumed its 
offensive east of Soissons, eighty-five Renault tanks co- 
operating between the 14th and the 16th. Ten days later 
an extensive joint attack was made by the Fifth and Second 
French Armies in conjunction with the American Army com- 
mencing on the 26th ; this attack continued until October 9. 

The Fourth Army attacked on a 15 -kilometre front in 
the Champagne, and in all 630 Renault and 24 Schneider 
actions were fought. Meanwhile the Second French Army 
and the American Armies attacked on a 12-kilometre front 
between the Argonne and the Meuse, and advanced during 
the seven battle days some 15 kilometres ; 350 Renault, 34 
Schneider, and 27 St. Chamond actions were fought in con- 
nection with this advance. 

At the urgent request of the Sixth French Army Com- 
mander, whose command had joined the " Grand Army of 
Flanders " after its work in the Soissons area had been 
concluded in July, a Renault battalion, less one company, 
and some heavy tank units were entrained for Dunkerque, 
the third company of this battalion having already been 
sent on detachment to Salonika at the urgent request of 
General Franchet d'Esperey. On September 30 and 
October 3 and 4, 55 tanks were employed north-west of 
Roulers, and from the 14th to the 19th, 178 tank engage- 
ments were fought, in which the enemy was driven back 
some 15 kilometres. This advance was continued on the 
31st of this month in the direction of Thielt, and on this 
and the two following days 75 ta,nk engagements took place. 

From the end of September onwards, operations generally 
had consisted in following up the enemy all along the line 
and pressing back his rearguards. On September 30, a 
minor tank action was fought between the Aisne and the 
Vesle ; on October 16 another on the eastern bank of the 
Meuse, and between October 17 and 19 yet another north-east 
of St. Quentin, in co-operation with the British attack further 


north. In this last attack the French Army advanced ten 
kilometres on a three-kilometre front. The last actions 
fought by French tanks took place between October 25 and 
31, the first south of the Oise and in the direction of Guise, 
when, on a front of five kilometres, an advance of no fewer 
than fifteen was made, the second north-west of Rethel, 
and the third north of Cruyshantem in Flanders. 

In conclusion, it is interesting to summarise the statistics 
available and compare them with those of the British Tank 
Corps given at the end of Chapter XXXVII. 

In August the strength of the French Tank Corps was 
14,649 all ranks, approximately the strength of an infantry 
division. During 1918, 3,988 individual tank engagements 
were fought : 3,140 by Renault, 473 by Schneider, and 375 
by St. Chamond tanks. Tanks were employed on 45 of the 
120 days which elapsed between July 15 and November 11. 
In personnel the casualties between these dates were approxi- 
mately 300 officers and 2,300 other ranks. 

Finally it may be stated that as there can be no doubt 
that July 18 was the second greatest turning-point in the 
war on the Western Front, the first being the battle of the 
Marne in 1914, so can there be no doubt that the battle of 
Soissons would never have been won had not the French 
possessed a powerful force of tanks whereby to initiate 
success. The German General Staff, which should be the 
best judge of this question, candidly admit that the French 
victory was due to the use of " masses of tanks." Neither was 
the General Commanding-in-Chief of the French Armies 
reticent, for on July 30 he issued the following special order 
of the day to the French Tank Corps : " Vous avez bien 
merite la patrie," whilst General Estienne, to whom so 
much was due, received the Cravat of the Legion d'Honneur 
and was promoted to the rank of General of Division for the 
great services he had rendered to his country. 



As soon as the position resulting from the great German 
attack of March 21 began to stabilise steps were taken by 
the Headquarters of the Tank Corps to reorganise and refit 
its battalions. This work was most difiicult on account of 
the reopening of the German offensive in the Lys area, which 
necessitated converting the 4th Tank Brigade into a Lewis - 
gun unit and dispatching it north to assist in stemming the 
German advance. Besides this, towards the middle of April 
instructions were received that on account of the difficulty 
of finding the required number of infantry reinforcements 
the number of tank brigades was to be reduced from six to 
four ; this meant the disbanding of the 5th Brigade in France 
and the breaking up of the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th Tank 
Battalions in England. Yet another difficulty was the 
question of re-arming, many machines had been lost during 
the retirement, nevertheless, on account of insufficient trans- 
port, it was not found possible to ship out to France the 
new Mark V tanks, the production of which in England 
was now in full swing. 

All these difficulties were eventually overcome, with the 
result that during June and July four brigades of the Tank 
Corps were re-armed ; but before this question is dealt with 
it will be necessary to hark back to the various operations 
which bridge the period between April 4, the date upon 
which the Second Battle of the Somme ended, and August 8, 
when our own great offensive was begun. 

On April 9 the Germans launched their second great attack 
between Festubert and Fleurbaix against the British front. 
It succeeded, so it is thought, even beyond their expecta- 
tions, and by the 11th the enemy's line roughly ran as follows : 




East of Ploegsteert — Armentieres — Steenwerck — Estaires — 
Lestren — Vieille Capelle, through Festubert to Givenchy, with 
the apex of the sahent near Nieppe. This attack in all 
probability was meant as a feint directed against a weak 
spot in our line in order to threaten the coalfield round 
Bruay and so cause Marshal Foch to weaken his reserves in 
Champagne and on the Somme. Succeeding as it did at 
first, it appears that the German command attempted to 
develop it from a feint to a decisive attack, with the result 
that their own reserves, of which they had none too many, 
were involved as well as those of the Allies. 

In order to meet the requirements of the new situation 
on April 11 detachments of the 7th and 11th Battalions of 
the 1st Tank Brigade were dispatched to hold a line west 
of Merville. Two days later the 4th Tank Brigade, now con- 
sisting of the 4th, 5th, and 13th Battalions, was turned into 
a Lewis-gun Brigade. On the 13th the 5th Battalion moved 
to Berthen, on the 16th the 13th Battalion to Boescheppe, 
and on the 17th the 4th Battalion to the same place. 

By April 17 the distribution of the Tank Corps was as 
follows : 

let Tank Brigade 
H.Q. Bois D'Ohlain 

nth Battalion 

N.E. of Busnes. 



2nd Tank Brigade 
H.Q. Saulty 

6th Battalion 

La Cauohie. 

3rd Tank Brigade 

H.Q. Molliens-au-Boia 

3rd Battalion 





4th Tank Brigade 

H.Q. Godewaersvelde 

4th Battalion 




5th Tank Brigade 

H.Q. Monchy Cayeux 

2nd Battalion 


The fighting carried out by the Lewis-gun units was of a 
severe nature, so much so that the casualties sustained 


caused the greatest anxiety at the Tank Corps headquarters, 
as reinforcements from England were exceedingly limited ; 
further, as it was still hoped to save the battalions at home 
to the Corps, it was especially desirable not to call upon 
them for drafts. 

Early on April 24 the enemy attacked south of the river 
Somme on a front from Villers-Bretonneux to the Bois de 
Hangard, Thfs attack is of special interest as it was the 
first occasion upon which the Germans employed tanks of 
their own manufacture against us/ By means of these 
tanks the enemy penetrated our front, captured most of the 
extensive village of Villers-Bretonneux and advanced as far 
as the Bois de I'Abbe. Prior to this attack, at 1 a.m., a 
section of tanks of the 1st Battalion, hidden in the Bois 
de I'Abbe, moved east of the wood owing to the excessive 
gas shelling. At 8.30 a.m. this section, under the orders of 
the 23rd Infantry Brigade, moved forward to secure the 
Cachy switch trench against the enemy's threatening attack ; 
exactly an hour later two of our machines, both females, 
came into view of a hostile tank and were put out of action 
by its gun fire — it should be remembered here that female 
tanks are armed only with machine guns. Shortly after- 
wards a British male Mark IV machine hove into sight, 
and speeding into action there then took place the first 
tank versus tank duel to be recorded in history. This male 
soon scored a direct hit on its antagonist, whereupon the 
enemy evacuated their tank and fled. By this time three 
more enemy tanks had appeared ; these the Mark IV machine 
engaged, and was in the process of driving off the field of 
battle when it received a direct hit from a field-gun shell 
and was put out of action. 

South-west of Villers-Bretonneux, seven Whippet machines 
were sent out at 10.30 a.m. to clear up the situation east of 
the village of Cachy. Whilst proceeding round the north- 
east side of this village they suddenly came upon two bat- 

1 The German reports published in April asserted that tanks were used 
against the British Army on March 21. As nothing is definitely known of 
their effect they probably failed to come into action. 


talions of Germans massing in a hollow preparatory to 
making an attack. Without a moment's hesitation the 
seven Whippets formed line and charged down the slope right 
on to the closely formed infantry. Indescribable confusion 
resulted as the Whippets tore through the German ranks, 
the enemy scattered in all directions, some threw themselves 
on their knees before the machines, shrieking for mercy, but 
only to be run over and crushed to death. In a few minutes 
no fewer than 400 Germans were killed and wounded. The 
Whippets, having now completed their task, viz. " clearing 
up the situation," returned, one machine being put out of 
action by artillery fire on the journey home ; in all only five 
casualties amongst the crews were suffered during this action. 

The two most remarkable features of this little engage- 
ment are : firstly, the helplessness of some 1,200 infantry 
against seven tanks manned by seven officers and fourteen 
other ranks ; and, secondly, that the tanks left their start- 
ing-point, which was 3j miles from the scene of action, at 
10.30 a.m., covered ten miles of ground, fought a battle, and 
were back home again at 2.30 p.m. 

On April 25 further minor tank operations took place in 
the Villers-Bretonneux area, chiefly east of the Bois d'Aquenne 
and the Monument, and, on the next day, British tanks for 
the first time in their history co-operated with the French 
Army, four tanks of the 1st Battalion being ordered to assist 
the Moroccan Division in an attack on the Bois de Hangard. 
This attack was not a success, due to two quite exceptional 
reasons ; two trees were cut down during the night, which 
were to have acted as landmarks for the tanks, and the 
smoke barrage was in error put down to the east instead of 
the west of the German line ; consequently the tanks not 
only lost their direction but were subjected to an intense 
machine-gun fire when nearing the German position ; this 
prevented the French infantry co-operating with them. 

The month of May was chiefly spent in re-sorting the tank 
battaUons and resting the men. The embargo on the im- 
portation of tanks from England had now been removed, 
and Mark V tanks were arriving in France at the rate of 


sixty a week. This machine, very similar in shape to the 
Mark IV or Mark I, was a great improvement on all former 
types, it being a much more mobile and handy weapon. A 
new system of tactics was at once got out to cover its in- 
crease in power, and training was started so as to accustom 
all ranks to its use. 

At about this time a considerable number of French 
troops were billeted in and around the Tank Corps area and 
it is a pleasure to record their extreme keenness to learn all 
they could about tanks and their tactics. General Maistre, 
commanding the Tenth French Army, with its headquarters 
then at Beauval, particularly asked that tank demonstra- 
tions should be held for the units of his command. This 
was done, and right through May and June two or three of 
these demonstrations were given weekly. Besides French 
troops, units from the 1st, Xlth, Xlllth, XVIIth, and 
XVIIIth English Corps and the Canadian and Austrahan Corps 
also attended, the greatest benefit resulting to all taking part. 

From the beginning of June onwards preparations were 
set on foot to have all tank units ready by August 1 for any 
eventuality. This necessitated intensive training, re-arm- 
ing and re-equipping. Sledges for supply haulage were 
prepared, bridges for the passage of light tanks over wide 
trenches were made, cribs were constructed for the heavy 
tanks — these were large hexagonal crates which served the 
same purpose as the tank fascines did at the battle of Cam- 
brai ; wire-pulling apparatus was got ready, smoke apparatus 
ordered, and portable railway ramps made. It was alto- 
gether an excessively busy time on the training ground and 
in the workshops, and, as matters eventually turned out, 
it was extremely fortunate that this work was taken up at 
this early date, for, as a future chapter will show, when the 
Tank Corps was next called upon to make ready for an 
extensive operation only eight days were obtainable to 
prepare in. 



During June and July three tank actions were fought : the 
first was a night raid on June 22-23, the second the battle 
of Hamel, and the third the battle of Moreuil or Sauvillers. 

The night raid is interesting in that it was the first occasion 
in the history of the Tank Corps in France upon which 
tanks were definitely allotted to work at night. The raid 
was carried out against the enemy's defences near Bucquoy 
by five platoons of infantry and five female tanks. Its object 
was to capture or kill the garrisons of a series of posts. The 
raid took place at 11.25 p.m. A heavy barrage of trench- 
mortar and machine-gun fire was met with at a place called 
Dolls' House in " No Man's Land " : here the infantry were 
held up, and though reinforced were unable to advance 
further. The tanks, thereupon, pushed on and carried out 
the attack in accordance with their orders. It is worthy 
of note that not a single tank was damaged by the trench- 
mortar barrage, which was very heavy. The tanks encoun- 
tered several parties of the enemy and undoubtedly caused 
a number of casualties. One tank was attacked by a party 
of the enemy who were shot down by revolver fire ; later 
on this tank rescued a wounded platoon commander who 
had been captured by the Germans. 

This raid is interesting in that it showed the possibility of 
manoeuvring tanks in the dark through the enemy's lines, 
and also the great security afforded to the tank by the dark- 

The battle of Hamel, which was fought on July 4, was the 
first occasion upon which the Mark V machine went into 
action. Much was expected of it, and it more than justified 
all expectations. The object of the attack was a twofold 


Plate V 


one — firstly, to nip oft a salient between the river Somme 
and the Villers-Bretonneux — ^Warfusee road ; secondly, to 
restore the confidence of the Australian Corps in tanks, a 
confidence which had been badly shaken by the BuUecourt 
reverse in 1917. 

As soon as the attack was decided on the training of the 
Australians with the tanks was commenced at Vaux en 
Amienois, the headquarters of the 5th Tank Brigade. Tank 
units for this purpose were affiliated to Australian units and 
by this means a close comradeship was cultivated. 

The general plan of operations was for the 5th Tank 
Brigade to support the advance of the 4th Australian Divi- 
sion in the attack against the Hamel spur running from the 
main Villers-Bretonneux plateau to the river Somme. The 
frontage was about 5,500 yards, extending to 7,500 yards 
on the final objective, the depth of which was 2,500 yards. 
The main tactical features in the area were Vaire wood, 
Hamel wood, Pear-Shape trench, and Hamel village. There 
was no defined system of trenches to attack except the old 
British line just east of Hamel, which had been originally 
sited to obtain observation eastwards. The remainder of 
the area was held by means of machine-gun nests. 

Five companies of 60 tanks in all were employed in the 
attack ; these were divided into two waves — a first-line 
wave of 48 and a reserve wave of 12 machines. Their dis- 
tribution was as follows : 

6th A.I. Brigade . .... 2 Sections (6 tanks). 

4th A.I. Brigade ... 1 Company (12 tanks). 

11th A.I. Brigade ... .6 Sections (18 tanks). 

Liaison between 4th and 11th Brigades . . 1 Company (12 tanks). 

Reserves ... . . 1 Company ( 12 tanks). 

The co-operation of the artillery was divided under the 
headings of a rolling barrage and the production of smoke 
screens. Behind the former the infantry were to advance 
followed by the tanks, which were only to pass ahead of 
them when resistance was encountered. This arrangement 
was not a good one and was an inheritance of the BuUecourt 
distrust. The latter were to be formed on the high ground 


west of Warfusee-Abancourt and north of the Somme and 
south of Morlancourt. Once the final objective was gained 
a standing barrage was to be formed to cover consolidation. 
As the entire operation was of a very limited character 
an extensive system of supply dumps was not necessary, so 
instead each fighting tank carried forward ammunition and 
water for the infantry and four supply tanks were detailed 
to carry R.E. material and other stores. Each of these 
eventually delivered a load of about 12,500 lb. within 500 
yards of the final objective, and within half an hour of its 
capture. The total load delivered on July 4, at 40 lb. per 
man, represented the loads of a carrying party 1,250 men 
strong. Th© number of men used in these supply tanks was 

The tanks assembled at the villages of Hamelet and 
Fouilloy on the night of July 2-3, without hostile interfer- 
ence. On the following night they moved forward to a 
line approximately 1,000 yards west of the infantry starting- 
line under cover of aeroplanes which, flying over the enemy, 
drowned the noise of the tank engines. 

Zero hour was fixed for 3.10 a.m. and tanks were timed 
to leave their starting-line at 3.2 a.m. under cover of artil- 
lery harassing fire, which had been carried out on previous 
mornings in order to accustom the enemy to it. This fire 
lasted seven minutes, then a pause of one minute occurred, 
to be followed by barrage fire on the enemy's front line for 
four minutes. This allowed twelve minutes for the tanks to 
advance an average distance of 1,200 yards before reaching 
the infantry line at zero plus four minutes, when the barrage 
was to lift. All tanks were on the starting-line up to time, 
which is a compliment to the increased reliability of the 
Mark V machine over all previous types. 

As the barrage lifted the infantry and tanks moved for- 
ward. The position of the tanks in relation to the infantry 
varied, but, generally speaking, the tanks were in front of 
the infantry and immediately behind the bursting shells. 
The enemy's machine-gunners fought tenaciously, and in 
several cases either held up the infantry, or would have in- 

-jroo^ '93S7yjnaj^—^Q(^n9iaio^j.^-suarjfr^ 




flicted severe casualties on them, if tanks had not been there 
to destroy them. The manoeuvring power of the Mark V 
tank was clearly demonstrated in all cases where the in- 
fantry were held up by machine guns, it enabled the tanks 
to drive over the gunners before they could get away. There 
were a great number of cases in which the German machine 
guns were run over and their detachments crushed. Driv- 
ing over machine-gun emplacements was the feature of this 
attack ; it eliminated all chance of the enemy " coming to 
life " again after the attack had passed by. 

Tanks detailed for the right flank had severe fighting 
and did great execution, their action being of the greatest 
service. The tanks detailed to support the infantry bat- 
talions passing round Vaire and Hamel woods and Hamel 
village guarded their flanks whilst this manoeuvre was in 

The tank attack came as a great surprise to the Germans 
and all objectives were taken up to scheduled time. The 
enemy suffered heavy loss, and, besides those killed, 1,500 
prisoners were captured. The 4th Australian Division had 
672 officers and other ranks killed and wounded, and the 
5th Brigade had only 16 men wounded and 5 machines hit. 
These tanks were all salved by the night of July 6-7. 

The co-operation between the infantry and tanks was as 
near perfect as it could be ; all ranks of the tank crews 
operating were impressed by the superb moral of the Aus- 
tralian troops, who never considered that the presence of 
the tanks exonerated them from fighting, and who took 
instant advantage of any opportunity created by the tanks. 
From this day on the fastest comradeship has existed 
between the Tank and Australian Corps. BuUecourt was 
forgotten, and from the psychological point of view this 
was an important objective to have gained prior to the great 
attack in August. 

The second battle in which the Tank Corps took part in 
July was the battle of Moreuil or Sauvillers ; it is of particular 
interest, for it was the only occasion during the war in which 
our tanks, in any numbers, operated with the French Army. 


Another interesting point connected with this attack was 
the rapidity with which it was mounted. 

At 2.30 p.m. on July 17 the 5th Tank Brigade Commander 
was informed that he was to prepare forthwith to co-operate 
in an attack to be made by the IXth Corps of the First 
French Army, and, for this purpose, the 9th Battahon of 
the 3rd Tank Brigade was to be placed under his command 
and that he and this battahon would come under the orders 
of the 3rd French Infantry Division. 

The object of the operation was a threefold one : 

(i) To seize the St. Ribert wood with the object of out- 
flanking Mailly-Raineval from the south. 

(ii) To capture the German batteries in the neighbourhood 
of St. Ribert or to force them to withdraw. 

(iii) To advance the French field batteries eastwards in 
order to bring fire to bear on the ridge which dominates the 
right bank of the river Avre. 

The three French Divisions attacking were the 152nd 
Division on the right, the 3rd in the centre, and the 15th 
on the left. Their respective frontages were 950, 2,000, and 
800 metres. The greatest depth of the attack was 3,000 metres. 

The operation was to be launched as a surprise, after a 
short and intense artillery preparation ; the main objectives 
were to be captured by encircling them and then " mopping " 
them up. 

There were three objectives : The first included Bois des 
Arrachis, Sauvillers, Mongival village, Adelpare farm and 
Ouvrage-des-Trois-Bouqueteaux ; twelve tanks and four 
battalions of infantry were detailed for this. The second 
included the clearing of the plateau to the north of the 
Bois-de-Sauvillers and the capture of the south-west corner 
of the Bois-de-Harpon ; the number of tanks allotted to 
this objective was twenty-four, with four fresh infantry bat- 
talions. The third, known as the Blue Line, an outpost hne 
covering the second objective, was to be occupied by eight 
strong infantry patrols and all available machines. 

The attack was to be preceded by one hour's intensive 
bombardment, including heavy counter-battery fire. The 


July 23'"'' 1918 


creeping barrage was to consist of H.E. and smoke shells 
and was to nxove at the rate of 200 metres in six minutes 
up to the first objective, after this at the rate of 200 metres 
in eight minutes. 

Tanks were to attack in sections of three, two in front 
and one in immediate support, the infantry advancing in 
small assaulting groups close behind the tanks. 

Directly the orders were issued preparations were set on 
foot. On July 18, Lieutenant-Colonel H. K. Woods, com- 
manding the 9th Battalion, and his reconnaissance officers 
visited General de Bourgon,^ the Commander of the 3rd 
French Division, who explained to them the scheme ; on 
the next day these officers reconnoitred the ground over which 
the battalion would have to operate, and tactical training 
was carried out with the French at the 5th Tank Brigade 
Driving School at Vaux-en-Amienois. On the 20th and 21st 
training continued, and further examination of the ground was 
made, and on the 22nd details of the attack were finally 
settled. In spite of the continuous exertion of the last few 
days all ranks were in the greatest heart to show the 3rd 
French Division what the British Tank Corps could do. 

Meanwhile headquarters were selected, communications 
arranged for, supplies dumped, and reorganisation and 
rallying-points worked out and fixed. 

The move of the 9th Battalion is particularly interesting 
on account of its rapidity. On July 17 it was in the Bus-les- 
Artois area ; on the 18th it moved 16,000 yards across 
country and entrained under sealed orders at Rosel, de- 
training at Conty. On the night of the 19th-20th it moved 
4,000 yards from Conty to Bois-de-Quemetot ; on 20th- 
21st, 9,000 yards to Bois-de-Rampont ; on 21st-22nd, 7,000 
yards to Bois-de-Hure and Bois-du-Fay ; and on 22nd-23rd 
4,500 yards from these woods into action with thirty-five 
machines out of the original forty-two fit to fight. 

The country over which the action was to be fought was 
undulating, and with the exception of large woods there 

1 General de Bourgon was a great friend of the Tank Corps ; he presented 
its Headquarters mess with a charming trophy. 


were few tank obstacles. Prior to the operations the weather 
had been fine, but on the day of the attack heavy rain fell 
and visibility was poor, a south wind of moderate strength 
was blowing. 

The preliminary bombardment began at 4.30 a.m., and, 
an hour later, the tanks having been moved up to their 
starting-points without incident, the attack was launched. 
The tanks advanced ahead of the infantry, Arrachis wood 
was cleared and Sauvillers village attacked, the tanks occupy- 
ing this village some fifteen minutes before the infantry 
arrived. At Adelpare farm and Les-Trois-Bouqueteaux the 
enemy's resistance, as far as the tanks were concerned, was 
light, and the German machine-gun posts were speedily over- 
rim. From Sauvillers village, at zero plus two hours, the 
tanks advanced on to Sauvillers wood, which, being too 
thick to enter, had to be skirted, broadsides being fired into 
the foliage. Whilst this was proceeding other tanks moved 
forward to wards, the Bois-de-St.-Ribert, but as the infantry 
patrols did not appear they turned back to regain touch 
with the French infantry. About 9.30 a.m., whilst cruising 
round, six tanks were put out of action in rapid succession 
by direct hits fired from a battery situated to the south of 
St. Ribert wood. At 9.15 a.m. an attack on Harpon wood 
was hastily improvised between the O.C. B Company, 9th 
Battalion, and the commander of one of the battalions of the 
51st Regiment. This attack was eminently successful ; the 
French infantry, following the tanks with great elan, estab- 
lished posts in Harpon wood. After this action the tanks 

In this attack the tank casualties were heavy in personnel: 
11 officers and men were killed and 48 wounded, and 15 
tanks were put out of action by direct hits. The losses in 
the French Divisions were : 3rd — 26 officers and 680 men ; 
15th — 15 officers and 500 men ; 152nd — 20 officers and 650 
men. It should be noted that though the 3rd, with which 
tanks co-operated, had to attack the largest system of 
defences, its casualties approximately equalled those of each 
of the other divisions. 


The number of prisoners captured was 1,858, also 5 guns, 
45 trench mortars, and 275 machine guns. 

After the attack, when the tanks had returned to their 
positions of assembly. General Debeney, commanding the 
First French Army, paid the 9th Battahon the great honour 
of personally inspecting it on July 25, and of expressing his 
extreme satisfaction at the way in which the Battalion 
had fought. As a token of the fast comradeship which had 
now been established between the French troops of the 3rd 
Division and the 9th Tank Battalion, this battalion was 
presented with the badge of the 3rd French Division and 
ever since this day the men of this unit have worn it on 
their left arm. 



In spite of the fact that throughout the war the Germans 
never had at their disposal more than some fifteen tanks of 
their own manufacture and some twenty-five captured and 
repaired British Mark IV machines, their employment of 
these machines is worth recording. 

As already mentioned the Germans learnt little from the 
Mark I machine they captured and held for several days 
during the battle of the Somme. In fact, they appear to 
have treated the tanks generally, during these operations, 
with scorn. The machine was indeed mechanically indif- 
ferent, but the German, who is essentially a stupid (dumm) 
man, could not apparently differentiate between the defects 
of mechanical detail and the advantages of fundamental 
principles, such as mobility, security, and offensive power, 
which indeed the whole " idea " of the tank represented. 

The action at Bullecourt, it is thought, opened the Ger- 
man eyes to the possibilities of a tank attack, that is an 
attack in which tanks are used as the resistance-breakers 
in advance of the infantry. If two tanks could accomplish 
what the two Mark I's did on April 11, 1917, there was no 
reason why 200 should not win a great victory, and 2,000 
end the war. Be this as it may, it was at about this time 
— the spring of 1917 — that the first German tank construction 
was begun at the Daimler works near Berlin, and the result 
of this was the production of fifteen machines known as 
" Type A.7.V." (see Plate VI), some of which first took 
the field in March 1918. 

The chief characteristics of this tank were : its good 
speed on smooth ground, on which it could attain some 
eight miles an hour ; its inabihty to cross almost any type 




of trench or shelled ground on account of its shape. In 
weight it was about 40 tons, it carried very thick armour 
especially in front, capable of withstanding A.P. bullets at 
close range and field-gun shells, not firing A.P. ammunition, 
at long ; it was, however, very vulnerable to the splash of 
ordinary bullets on account of the crevices and joints in its 
armour. The most interesting feature of this otherwise 
indifferent machine was that its tracks were provided with 
sprung bogies. The use of sprung tracks in so heavy a tank 
was the only progressive step shown in the German effort 
at tank production. 

The German tank was 24 ft. long and 10 ft. 6 in. wide ; 
its armament was one 1*57 mm. gun and 6 machine guns ; 
its crew, one officer, eleven N.C.O.s, and four private soldiers 
— exactly twice the strength of the crew of a British Mark 
IV tank. This crew comprised three distinct classes, drivers 
(mechanics), gunners (artillerymen), and machine-gunners 
(infantrymen). These three classes remained distinct, little 
co-operation existing between them. 

Both the tanks of German manufacture and the captured 
British tanks were divided into sections (Abteilungen) of 
five machines each, the personnel establishment of which 
was as follows : 

Oerman Tanks. Captured Tanks. 

Captain Commanding .... 1 1 

Lieuts. or 2nd Lieuta. 

5 5 


81 81 


48 20 


22 14 


12 12 

Medical Corps 

1 1 

Orderlies, etc. 

6 6 


176 All ranks. 140 All ranks 

This establishment was a very extravagant one when 
compared with that of a Mark IV section of five tanks, 
namely, six officers and thirty-five other ranks. 

Besides the " A.7.V." machines the Germans employed, 


during their various offensives of 1918, a number of cater- 
pillar ammunition carriers known as " Munitions Schlepper," 
or " Tankautos." These could proceed across country as 
well as by road. 

The moral of the German Tank Corps was not high, and 
as regards the personnel of the captured Mark IV Tanks it 
was decidedly low, the Germans having made considerable 
efforts to prove to their own troops, by means of demonstra- 
tions, that this type of tank was both vulnerable and ineffec- 
tive. The training of this Corps appears to have been 
indifferent; a certain number of Assault Divisions were 
trained with wagons representing tanks, and in a few cases 
it is believed that actual tanks were used with infantry in 
combined training. 

The tactics of the German tanks simply consisted in the 
" mopping up " of strong points. On several occasions 
they did get in front of the attacking infantry, but they do 
not appear in any sense to have led the attack. The follow- 
ing extract from the German G.H.Q. instructions, " The 
Co-operation of Infantry with Tanks " (!), indicates that no 
real co-operation was ever contemplated. It reads : 

" The infantry and tanks will advance independently of 
one another. No special instructions regarding the co- 
operation with tanks will be issued. When advancing with 
tanks the infantry will not come within 160 yards of them 
on account of the shells which will be fired at the tanks." 

In all, there are nine recorded occasions upon which the 
Germans made use of tanks, the first of which was in their 
great offensive which opened on March 21, 1918. In this 
attack about ten German and ten captured British machines 
were used, and although they accomplished very little they 
were much written up in the German press. 

A little over a month later, on April 24, the only success- 
ful German tank attack during the war was carried out. On 
this occasion, which has been referred to in Chapter XXVI, 
fourteen tanks were brought forward, and of these twelve 





came into action and captured Villers-Bretonneux, a point of 
great tactical importance ; a counter-attack carried out by 
the Australian Corps and a few British tanks, however, 
restored the situation. 

A month later a few tanks were used by the Germans 
a^gainst the French on the opening day of the great Aisne 
offensive, namely May 27. None of these machines, how- 
ever, succeeded in passing a large trench in the second 
defensive system known as Dardanelles trench. 

On June 1, fifteen operated with little success in the 
Reims sector, eight being left derelict in the French lines. 
Similar unsuccessful operations were carried out on June 9 
and July 15. 

On August 31, three German tanks approached our lines 
east of Bapaume ; two were knocked out by our guns and 
eventually captured. 

On October 8, some fifteen captured British machines were 
used against us in the Cambrai sector. Of this action the 
German account states that these tanks were employed 
defensively to fill up a gap in their line ; whether this was 
so or not, they undoubtedly produced a demoralising effect 
amongst our own men, equilibrium only being re-estab- 
lished when two of them were put out of action. Three days 
later, on the 11th, a few tanks were used at St. Aubert; this 
was the last recorded occasion upon which the Germans 
made use of tanks in the Great War. 

Indifferent as were the German tank tactics as compared 
with our own, one fact was most striking, this being that the 
British infantry no more than the German would or could 
withstand a tank attack. The reason for this is a simple 
one, namely, inability to do so. So pronounced was this 
feeling of helplessness that when, during our own retirement 
in March 1918, rumours were afloat that German tanks were 
approaching, our men in several sectors of the line broke 
and fell back. During the German retirement a few months 
later on we find exactly the same lowering of moral by 
self-suggested fear, fear based on the inability to overcome 
the danger. This moral effect produced by the tank was 


appreciated by the Germans, for in a note issued by the 
XVIIth German Army we find : 

"Our own tanks strengthen the moral of the infantry to 
a tremendous extent, even if employed only in small num- 
bers, and experience has shown that they have a consider- 
able demoralising effect on the hostile infantry." 



On July 15 the renewed German offensive on the Chateau- 
Thierry — ^Reims front had been launched and failed. Strate- 
gically and tactically placed in as unenviable a position 
as any army well could be, the Crown Prince's forces re- 
ceived a staggering blow on the 18th, when Marshal Foch 
launched his great tank counter-attack against the western 
flank of the Soissons salient. 

At the time of this attack the brigades of the Tank Corps 
were distributed defensively along the First, Third, and 
Fourth Army fronts, in order to meet by counter-attacks 
any renewal of the enemy's offensive against these Armies. 

Ever since the dramatic coup-de-main accomplished on 
July 4 by the 4th Australian Division and the 5th Tank 
Brigade in the battle of Hamel, the general interest in tanks 
had become much more conspicuous. The great tank attack 
at the battle of Cambrai, convincing in worth as it was to 
all who had taken part in it, had been somewhat, discredited 
by the recent German offensive on the Somme front, which 
was seized upon by certain soldiers of the old school to rein- 
force their assertion — that the day of the tank had come 
and gone, and that to fight a second battle of Cambrai was 
too great a gamble to be worth risking. Now a series of 
projects were asked for which embraced various areas of 
operation ; in the Fourth Army against the Amiens salient ; 
in the Third Army against Bucquoy and Bapaume ; in the 
First Army against the Merville salient and in the Second 
against Keromel hill. The only one of these projects which 
offered prospects of a decisive success was the first. 

On July 13 the Fourth Army Commander was asked by 
G.H.Q. to submit a scheme for an attack on his front. This 
16 217 


was done on the 17th, when a limited operation, with the 
object of capturing the Amiens outer defence Kne, running 
from Castel through Caix to Mericourt, was outlined. The 
force suggested for this attack was three corps and eight 
battalions of tanks. On the 21st a conference was held at 
the Fourth Army headquarters at Flixecourt when, on the 
suggestion of the Tank Corps, the number of tank battalions 
was raised from eight to twelve ; this comprised the whole 
Tank Corps less the 1st Tank Brigade, which was still armed 
with Mark IV machines, and which at this time was engaged 
in training its personnel on the Mark V tank. 

On July 27, zero day was fixed for the 10th, but on August 6 
this was changed to the 8th. All this time, in order to 
maintain secrecy, no mention of the impending attack was 
permitted, and the only preparation which could be under- 
taken was to send one officer of the Tank Corps General 
Staff to the area of operations to study the ground. On 
July 30 a conference was held at the 5th Tank Brigade head- 
quarters at Vaux, at which the Fourth Army Commander 
explained the plan of operations. From this day on pre- 
parations were begun, the railway moves being issued the 
same evening. 

As already stated, the original proposal was a limited 
operation, the centre of the attack being carried out by the 
Canadian and Australian Corps. The right of the Canadians 
was to be covered by the French First Army attacking east 
and south-east of the Luce river. The left of the Aus- 
tralians was to be protected by two divisions of the Ilird 
Corps operating towards Bray. On July 29 the scope of 
the operation was extended as follows : 

To disengage the Amiens-Paris railway by occupying the 
line Hangest — ^Harbonni^res — Mericourt. 

To advance to the line Roye — Chaulnes, driving the enemy 
towards Ham, and so facilitate the advance of the French 
on the line Noyon-Montdidier. 

The force placed at the disposal of the Fourth Army con- 
sisted of the following Corps : 

(i) The Canadian Corps — 4 divisions. 


(ii) The Australian Corps — 4 divisions, 
(iii) The Illrd Corps — 2 divisions. 

(iv) General Reserve — 3 divisions, to be supplemented by 
further divisions as soon as possible. 

(v) The Cavalry Corps — 3 cavalry divisions. 
Tank battalions were allotted to the 3 infantry corps as 
follows : 

(i) Canadian Corps, 4th Tank Brigade — 1st, 4th, 5th, and 
14th Battalions. 

(ii) Australian Corps — 5th Tank Brigade — 2nd, 8th, 13th, 
and 15th Battalions. 

(iii) Ilird Corps — 10th Battalion, 

(iv) General Reserve — 9th Battalion (still refitting at 

(v) Cavalry Corps. 3rd Tank Brigade — 3rd and 6th Bat- 

The 3rd and 6th Battalions were equipped with 48 Whippet 
tanks each ; all the other battalions were heavy units 
equipped with 42 Mark V machines each (36 fighting and 
6 training tanks), except the 1st and 15th Battalions, which 
were each equipped with 36 Mark V One Star machines. 

As in the battle of Cambrai the initiation of the attack was 
to depend on the tanks, no artillery registration or bom- 
bardment being permitted prior to the assault. In all, 
some 82 brigades of field artillery, 26 brigades of heavy 
artillery, and 13 batteries of heavy guns and howitzers were 
to be employed. The following is a summary of the artil- 
lery instructions : 
(i) No artillery bombardment. 

(ii) The initial attack to be opened by a barrage at zero, 
(iii) The majority of the heavy guns and howitzers to 
concentrate on counter-battery work. 

(iv) The field-artillery brigades to be prepared to move 
forward and offer the closest support to the attacking in- 

(v) Special noise barrages to cover the approach of the 

The first object of the Cavalry Corps was to secure the old 



Amiens defence line and hold it until relieved by infantry 
units. The second, to push forward on the line Roye — 
Chaulnes. For this purpose the 3rd Cavalry Division with 
one battalion of Whippets was placed under the command 
of the Canadian Corps, and one cavalry brigade, supported 
by one company of Whippets, under that of the Australian 

On July 30, the date on which preparations were begun, 
the Tank Corps was distributed as follows : 

lat Tank Brigade 

7th Battalion Merlimont. 

H.Q. Estmvalle 


, Merlimont. 


, Merlimont. 

2nd Tank Brigade 


, Bouvigny. 

H.Q. Bois D'Ohlain 


Mont St. Eloi. 


, Simencourt. 

Srd Tank Brigade 


, Toutencourt. 

H.Q. Wavrana 


, Merlimont. 

ith Tank Brigade 


, Coullemont. 

H.Q. Couturelle 


, La Cauchie. 


, BaUleulval. 

5th Tank Brigade 


, Querrieu wood. 

H.Q. Vaux 


, Blangy (east of Amiens) 


, St. Gratien (near to). 


, Cavillon. 

In order to facilitate co-operation and staff work it was 
decided to break up temporarily the 2nd Tank Brigade and 
to allot the 10th Battalion to the Ilird Corps and the 14th 
and 15th Battalions to the 4th and 5th Tank Brigades re- 
spectively. Besides these units five Supply and Gun Carrier 
Companies were allotted for the transport of tank and 
infantry supplies. 

Briefly the general preparations were carried out as fol- 
lows : the 1st, 4th, 5th, 10th, 14th, and 15th Battalions were 
concentrated by rail in the Fourth Army area, detraining at 
Poulainville, Saleux, Prouzel, and Vignacourt between July~31 
and August 5. The 3rd and 6th Whippet Battalions moved 
to Naours by the night of August 2-3, and thence to the 
Boulevard Pont-Noyelles in Amiens on the night of the 
6th-7th, where they lay hid under the trees. Tanks were 
got ready commencing on July 31, on which date the for- 
mation of supply dumps was begun. The 9th Battalion, 


^^ ♦ V* 





which had been withdrawn to Cavillon after the battle of 
Moreuil, was allotted to the Canadian Corps for training ; 
the training of the Australian Corps continuing as heretofore 
at Vaux. Considering the short time available for prepara- 
tion the speed with which this great battle was mounted 
redounds to the credit of all ranks taking part in it. It 
was a triumph of good staff work. 

The detailed preparations of the four groups of tanks — 
3rd, 4th, and 5th Brigades, and the 10th Battalion, are 
interesting and were as follows : 

Fourth Tank Brigade. — This brigade established its ad- 
vanced headquarters at Dury. Its battalions were distri- 
buted as follows : the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 15th Battalions to 
the 4th, 1st, 3rd, and 2nd Canadian Divisions respectively. 

No. 3 Tank Supply Company was split up amongst the 
divisions of the Canadian Corps ; three forward wireless 
stations were arranged for as well as one back receiving 
station ; assembly positions and rallying-points were fixed, 
and the 2nd Tank Field Company was detailed, once the 
battle began, to clear all obstacles off the Berteaucourt- 
Thennes road and to prepare crossings over the Luce river 
between Hangard and Demuin. 

The plan of the Canadian Corps attack was as follows : 

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Canadian Divisions were to make 
good the Red Line on zero day, except the left of the 2nd 
Division, which was to push on and occupy the Blue Line. 
The advance of the 3rd Canadian Division was timed to 
start at zero plus four hours, the time it was considered the 
initial attack would leave the Green Line. The 4th Canadian 
Division was to follow the 1st and 3rd to the Blue Line and 
then to the line Moreuil — Demuin — Marcelcave. The 1st Tank 
Battalion was allotted to this division, and arrangements 
were made for each of its tanks to carry forward two Lewis 
and two Vickers gun-teams besides the crew, these units 
being intended to assist the cavalry on the Blue Dotted Line. 
Besides the above an independent force, consisting chiefly 
of Canadian motor machine guns, was to operate down the 
Roye road. 


Fifth Tank Brigade. — The 5th Tank Brigade estabhshed 
its advanced headquarters at Hospice Fouilloy with a report 
centre at the north-west corner of Kate wood. Its bat- 
tahons were distributed as follows : the 2nd Battalion and 
one company of the 13th Battalion to the 2nd and 5th 
Australian Divisions; the 13th Battalion less one company to 
the 3rd Australian Division ; the 8th Battalion to the 4th ; 
the 15th Battalion was split into halves of eighteen tanks 
each, one half operating with the 4th and the other with 
the 5th Australian Divisions. 

As regards supply arrangements, No. 1 Gun Carrier Com- 
pany was allotted to the Australian Corps for transport 
work. Two forward wireless stations and one back receiv- 
ing station were fixed, and assemblyandrallying-points settled. 

The general plan was that the tanks were to advance to 
the first objective under an artillery barrage. On reaching 
the second objective all tanks were to rally except those of 
the 15th Battalion, which were to push on to the Blue Dotted 
Line carrying machine-gunners forward. 

Tenth Battalion. — The whole of the tanks of the 10th Bat- 
talion, less one section, were to operate against the first 
objective and then push on to the second, aifter which they 
were to rally west of the first objective. 

Third Tank Brigade. — The 3rd Tank Battalion was allotted 
to the 3rd Cavalry Division and the 6th Tank Battalion to 
the 1st Cavalry Division. The objective of these two bat- 
talions was to secure the ai-ea between the Red Line and the 
old Amiens defence line. The advance of the 3rd and 1st 
Cavalry Divisions was to take place at zero plus four hours. 
Before the Red Line was reached the cavalry scouts were 
to precede the Whippet tanks and discover crossings over 
the Luce river at Ignaucourt and Demuin. If crossings were 
found the Whippets were to use them ; otherwise they were 
to advance eastwards near Caix. The formation to be 
adopted by these two battahons was one company to act 
as a screen in front of the cavalry with 200 yards interval 
between tanks, one company in support, and one company 
in reserve. 


Augusts*'' 1918. 

AjywY V { ii^ i"™^ V5L- n 







CORPS TX^^,>,./„„%j4(,. "=^"" 

V...... t»* > 'o^i^ SdJVniruurC Xffuu'mM': \ f^ 

' Ccrisy 

AUSTRIAN x^, a7 '^X ^l hr,-ovart \ df^ 

" CORPS ?^^4«^^^Jr/ 

_ (JinJailqU/fs 






'^#"f\ - >?/-^ 

.•,/ , \j»2o/«j.urf°°,, ,,p „0 




// HuitiutiJirotirt t\ \ 

Maj-aiirwniier.Hr'^V'''"" ' '" 

Scale of Yards 

AUGUST 8, 1918 223 

The country between our front line and the hne Roye — 
Frise was in every respect suitable to tank movement. East 
of the Roye — Frise line began the French portion of the old 
Somme battlefield ; the ground here in places had been 
heavily shelled, but was quite negotiable by heavy tanks. 
The flanks of the attack were the two difi&cult points. Neither 
permitted of the use of offensive wings and both offered good 
defensive positions for the enemy's machine-gunners. 

Zero was at 4.45 a.m., when 415 fighting tanks out of 420 '■ 
went into action ; this in itself was a notable feat of 
mechanical efficiency. The attack was an overwhelming 
surprise and, though the enemy was holding his line in 
strength, little opposition was met with except in a few 
locahties. At the battles of Hamel and Moreuil the German 
machine-gunners had learnt to appreciate what the in- 
creased mobility of the Mark V tank enabled it to accom- 
phsh, and not being anxious to be crushed under its thirty 
tons of steel they gave less trouble during this battle than 
on any previous occasion. In spite of this, many hostile 
machine-gun posts were hunted out of the standing corn and 
run over. Co-operation was throughout good, especially on 
the Canadian and Austrahan fronts, where the attack swept 
on irresistibly. On the Ilird Corps front the attack started 
in a state of some confusion, due to the fog and the uncertain 
state of the line, the Germans having attacked the Ilird 
Corps on the 6th, and the Ilird Corps having retaken most 
of their lost trenches on the 7th. This undoubtedly compli- 
cated the attack on the 8th. 

South of the river Somme all objectives were taken up to 
time ; on the right flank the difficult valley of the Luce was 
crossed by all except two tanks ; this was a high comph- 
ment to the crews working on this flank, for the approach of 
the tanks was rendered most difficult on account of fog. 

Both battahons of Whippets were engaged with their re- 

' Nine heavy battalions with 324 machines and two medium battalions 
with 96. Besides these tanks, there were 42 in mechanical reserve, 96 supply 
tanks, and 22 gun-carriers. In all, and not counting the machines of the 
9th Tank Battalion, there were 580 tanks. 


spective cavalry divisions and had a considerable amount 
of fighting to do in the neighbourhood of Cayeux wood, Le 
Quesnel, east of Mezi^res, at Guillaucourt and the railway 
south of Harbonni^res, which was held with great deter- 
mination by the enemy as far as the Rosi^res-Vauvillers road. 
During this day's fighting a total of 100 machines were 
temporarily put out of action chiefly by the enemy's fire 
from the Chipilly ridge, which, on account of the partial 
failure of the Ilird Corps attack, was held by the enemy for 
several days after August 8. On the evening of the 8th 
the tanks rallied; the crews, however, were so exhausted 
by the great distance covered, the maximum penetration 
effected being about 7| miles, and the heat of the day, 
that it was necessary to resort to the formation of composite 
companies for the next day's operation, few reserves remain- 
ing in hand, and the 9th Tank Battalion, which was now 
moving eastwards from Cavillon, was not in a position to 
take the field for at least forty-eight hours. 

On the night of August 8-9, the front line of our attack 
from north to south ran approximately as follows : along the 
outer Amiens defence hne to Proyart — west of Rainecourt — 
east of Vauvillers — east of Rosi^res — east of Meharicourt — 
east of Rouvroy — east of Bouchoir. South of the Amiens- 
Roye road the line was continued by the French, who had 
captured Hangest, Arvillers, and Pierrepont. 

Up to 6 o'clock on the morning of August 9, some 16,000 
prisoners had passed through the British and French cages, 
and over 200 guns had been counted. Many prisoners 
testified to the rapid advance of the tanks which, appearing 
suddenly out of the mist, rendered all resistance useless. It 
is interesting to record that those prisoners who had seen 
tanks before all noticed that they were up against a new 
type which moved faster and manoeuvred better than the 
old ones. 

On the evening of the 8th orders were issued that the 
attack should be resumed on the following morning with a 
view to advancing it to the Hne Roye — Chaulnes — Bray-sur- 
Somme — Dernancourt, particular attention being paid to the 


left flank. A strong position was to be established north of 
the Somme in order to form a defensive flank to the Fourth 

On August 9, north of the Somme, the 10th Battahon put 
sixteen tanks into action with the 12th and 58th Divisions. 
The attack was, however, at first held up by machine-gun 
fire from the woods roimd Chipilly, and the work entailed in 
engaging these weapons by means of tanks was found most 
difficult on account of the steep valleys in this sector and 
the close nature of the woods. Later on in the day, objec- 
tives were gained, but only after five tanks had been put 
out of action. 

South of the Somme the 5th and 4th Tank Brigades 
attacked the front Framerville-Rosieres-Bouchoir with 89 
tanks. Near Lihons five machines received direct hits, but 
in the action round Framerville out of the 13 tanks engaged 
only 1 was hit. The fewness of tank casualties here was un- 
doubtedly due to the excellent infantry co-operation, rifle- 
men working hand-in-hand with the tanks and picking off 
the enemy's gunners directly the machines came under hostile 
artillery observation. 

The 3rd Tank Brigade's action with the Cavalry Corps 
was disappointing, the tanks being kept too long at their 
Brigade Headquarters. At Beaufort and Warvillers the 
Whippets rendered great assistance to the infantry by 
chasing hostile machine-gunners out of the crops and shoot- 
ing them down as they fled. 

On this day in all 145 tanks went into action, of which 
39 were hit by hostile gun fire. 

On the night of August 9-10, the attack had reached the line 
Bouchoir — Warvillers — Rosieres — Framerville — Mericourt. 
On the 10th the Fourth Army orders were to continue the 
advance with the object of gaining the general line Roye — 
Chaulnes — Bray-sur-Somme — Dernancourt. New French 
forces were also going to attack on the front south of Mont- 

On the morning of August 10 the 10th BattaMon co-oper- 
ated in two small attacks carried out by the 12th Division. 


Seven tanks took part and attacked the enemy north of 
Morlancourt and along the Bray- Corbie road. This was the 
last action fought on this front by this battalion. 

South of this, the 5th Tank Brigade carried out a minor 
night operation against Proyart, and the 4th Tank Brigade 
with 43 tanks supported the 32nd Division, fresh from the 
general reserve, and the 4th Canadian Division in an attack 
on the line Roye — Hattencourt — Hallu ; owing to the late 
issue of orders, the hour of attack was altered, and even- 
tually the advance took place in daylight without smoke. A 
stubborn resistance was met with, and out of the 43 tanks 
operating no fewer than 23 received direct hits. 

The Whippets with the cavalry fared equally badly on 
this day. They were ordered to capture Parvillers, but 
neither the cavalry nor Whippets reached this spot owing 
to the old trench systems and the broken nature of the 
ground. The edge of the old Somme battlefield had now 
been reached, and the time was rapidly approaching when 
the shelled area would offer as great an obstacle to the 
attack as it would an assistance to the retiring enemy. 

During the 10th some 67 tanks in all were engaged, and 
of these 30 received direct hits. 

On August 11 no appreciable change took place on the 
British front., Lihons was, however, captured by the 1st 
Australian Division, assisted by ten tanks of the 2nd Bat- 
talion, otherwise most of the tank operations consisted in mop- 
ping up strong points. On the evening of this day the 4th 
and 5th Tank Brigades were withdrawn from action to refit. 

During the next few days it was decided that, whilst 
pressure should be kept up south of the Somme, a new 
battle should open to the north of this river on the Third 
Army front, and that three Tank Brigades should co-operate 
in this attack ; this necessitated the transfer of the 4th 
Tank Brigade to the Ilird Corps north of the Somme and 
the withdrawal of the 10th, 14th, and 15th Battalions from 
the Fourth Army area ; this left the 4th Tank Brigade with 
the 1st, 4th, and 5th Battalions, and the 5th Tank Brigade 
with the 2nd, 8th, and 13th Battalions. 


On August 17 the general situation was as follows : A 
total of 688 tanks had been in action on August 8, 9, 10, and 
11 ; 480 machines had been handed over to Salvage ; very 
few of the remaining machines were actually fit for a lengthy 
action, and all required a thorough overhaul ; four days, as 
we shall see, were only possible for this, for the next battle 
was scheduled to open on August 21. 

,The great battle of Amiens was now at an end. A tre- 
mendous physical, and above all, moral blow had been dealt 
the enemy ; not only had he lost 22,000 prisoners and 400 
guns, but also all hope of winning the war by force of arms. 
On August 16 the Fourth Army Commander, General Sir 
Henry Rawlinson, issued the following Special Order, which 
sums up the reason for this great victory: 

" The success of the operations of August 8 and succeed- 
ing days was largely due to the conspicuous part played by 
the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Brigades of the Tank Corps, and I 
desire to place on record my sincere appreciation of the 
invaluable services rendered both by the Mark V and the 
Mark V Star and the Whippets. 

" The task of secretly assembling so large a number of 
tanks entailed very hard and continuous work by all con- 
cerned for four or five nights previous to the battle. 

" The tactical handling of the tanks in action made calls 
on the skill and physical endurance of the detachments 
which were met with by a gallantry and devotion beyond 
all praise. 

" I desire to place on record my appreciation of the 
splendid success that they achieved, and heartily to con- 
gratulate the Tank Corps as a whole on the completeness of 
their arrangements and the admirable prowess exhibited by 
all ranks actually engaged on this occasion. 

" There are many vitally important lessons to be learned 
from their experiences. These will, I trust, be taken to 
heart by all concerned and made full use of when next the 
Tank Corps is called upon to go into battle. 

" The part played by the tanks and Whippets in the battle 
of August 8 was in all respects a very fine performance," 

The success of the operations may be attributed to — 


surprise, the moral effect of the tanks, the high moral of 
our own infantry, the rapid advance of our guns, and the 
good roads for supplies. 

The main deductions to be drawn from this battle are : 

(i) That once preparations are well in progress it is 
almost impossible to modify them to meet any change in 

(ii) That the staying power of an attack lies in the general 
reserve. In this attack the tank general reserve was very 
weak, consequently after August 8 tank attacks began to 
" peter out." 

(iii) That the heavy tank is an assault weapon. Its role 
is in trench warfare. Once open warfare is entered on 
infantry must protect tanks from artillery fire. 

(iv) That the endurance in action of heavy tanks may, at 
present, be put down as being three days, after which they 
require overhaul. 

(v) That the supply tank is too slow and heavy ; a hght 
machine such as a cross-country tractor should replace it. 

(vi) That at present wireless and aeroplane communica- 
tions cannot be relied upon ; the safest means of communica- 
tion and the simplest is by galloper. 

(vii) That the attachment of tanks to cavalry is not a 
success ; for, in this battle, each of these arms in many 
ways impeded rather than helped the other. During the 
approach marches the Whippets frequently were reported 
to have been unable to keep up with the rapid movement of 
the cavalry; during actual fighting the reverse took place. 
By noon on August 8, great confusion was developing behind 
the enemy's lines, by this time the Whippets should have 
been operating five to ten miles in advance of the infantry, 
accentuating this demoralisation. As it was, being tied 
down to support the cavalry, they were a long way behind 
the infantry advance, the reason being that as cavalry 
cannot make themselves invisible on the battlefield by 
throwing themselves flat on the ground as infantry can, 
they had to retire either to a flank or to the rear to avoid 
being exterminated by machine-gun fire. Close co-opera- 


tion between cavalry and tanks being, therefore, practically 
impossible, both suffered by attempting to accomplish it. 

The outstanding lesson of the battle of Amiens as far as 
tanks are concerned is that neither the Mark V nor the 
Whippet machine has sufficient speed for open warfare. 
Had we possessed a machine which could have moved at an 
average rate of ten miles an hour, which had a radius of 
action of 100 or more miles, in this battle we should have 
not only occupied the bridges across the Somme between 
Peronne and Ham by noon on August 8, but, by wheeling 
south-east towards Noyon, we should have cut off the entire 
German forces south of the Amiens — Roye — Noyon road and 
inflicted such a blow that in all probability the war would 
have ended before the month was out. Both from the 
positive and negative standpoint, this battle may be summed 
up as " a triumph of machine-power over man-power," or, 
if preferred, " of petrol over muscle." 



In this history space has forbidden any extensive reference 
to individual tank actions, though when all is said and done 
it was on these actions that not only was the efficiency of 
the Tank Corps founded but victory itself. 

Prior to the battle of Amiens it will be remembered that 
the 3rd and 6th Whippet Battalions were allotted to work 
with the Cavalry Corps, and that this did not prove a great 
success owing to the difficulty of combining the_action~^f~ 
steel melchanicany~ariven "wTEETio^eflesh. The account of 
the action given TJelovTls that of a single machine, working 
well in advance of the attack against the enemy's com- 
munications, as it is and was considered at the time in the 
Tank Corps that all the light tanks should have been. This 
account is so interesting and instructive that it is quoted in 
full. The pluck shown by the crew of one officer and two 
men, though not exceptional in the Tank Corps, is worthy 
of the highest praise. These three men, like the Argonauts 
of old, launched their landship on an expedition faced by 
unknown dangers ; they fought their way through countless 
odds and faced single-handed the whole of the rear of the 
German Army. But for an unfortunate accident they might 
have returned unscathed to safety. In spite of the misfortune 
which eventually overtook them, at the lowest computa- 
tion they must have inflicted 200 casualties on the enemy, 
and at the price of one man killed. 

If still there are to be found doubters in the power of the 
tank, and in the superiority of mechanical warfare over 
muscular, surely this heroic incident will alone suffice to 
convince them : 



" On August 8, 1918, I commanded Whippet tank ' Musi- 
cal Box,' belonging to ' B ' Company of the 6th Battalion. 
We left the lying-up point at zero (4.20 a.m.) and proceeded 
across country to the south side of the railway at Villers- 
Bretonneux. We crossed the railway in columm of sections, 
by the bridge on the eastern outskirts of the town. I reached 
the British front line and passed through the Australian 
infantry (2nd Australian Division) and some of our heavy 
tanks (Mark V), in company with the remainder of the 
Whippets of ' B ' Company. Four sections of ' B ' Com- 
pany proceeded parallel with the railway (Amiens — ^Ham) 
across country due east. After proceeding about 2,000 
yards in this direction, I found myself to be the leading 
machine, owing to the others having become ditched. To 
my immediate front I could see more Mark V tanks being 
followed very closely by Australian infantry. About this 
time we came under direct shell fire from a four-gun field 
battery, of which I could see the flashes, between Abancourt 
and Bayonvillers. Two Mark V tanks, 150 yards on my 
right front, were knocked out. I saw clouds of smoke 
coming out of these machines, and the crews evacuate them. 
The infantry following the heavy machines were suffering 
casualties from this battery. I turned half left and ran 
diagonally across the front of the battery, at a distance of 
about 600 yards. Both my guns were able to fire on the 
battery, in spite of which they got off about eight rounds 
at me without" damage, but sufficiently close to be audible 
inside the cab, and I could see the flash of each gun as it 
fired. By this time I had passed behind a belt of trees 
running along a roadside. I ran along this belt until level 
with the battery, when I turned full right and engaged the 
battery in rear. On observing our appearance from the 
belt of trees, the gunners, some thirty in number, abandoned 
their guns and tried to get away. Gunner Ribbans and I 
accounted for the whole lot.^ I cruised forward, making a 
detour to the left, and shot a nimaber of the enemy who 
appeared to be demoralised, and were moving about the 
country in all directions. This, detour brought me back to 
the railway siding N.N.W. of Guillaucourt. I could now 
see other Whippets coming up and a few Mark V.s also. 
The Australian infantry, who followed magnificently, had 
now passed through the battery position which we had 

1 This waa borne witness to by British troops near by. 


accounted for and were lying in a sunken road about 400 
yards past the battery and slightly to the left of it. I got 
out of my machine and went to an Australian full lieutenant 
and asked if he wanted any help. Whilst talking to him, 
he received a bullet which struck the metal shoulder title, 
a piece of the bullet casing entering his shoulder. While he 
was being dressed, Major Rycroft,^ on horseback, and Lieu- 
tenant Waterhouse, in a tank, and Captain Strachan of 
' B ' Company, 6th Battalion, arrived and received con- 
firmation from the Australian officer of our having knocked 
out the field battery. I told Major Rycroft what we had 
done, and then moved off again at once, as it appeared to 
be unwise for four machines (Lieutenant Watkins had also 
arrived) to remain stationary at one spot. I proceeded 
parallel with the railway embankment in an easterly direc- 
tion, passing through two cavalry patrols of about twelve 
men each. The first patrol was receiving casualties from a 
party of enemy in a field of corn. I dealt with this, killing 
three or four, the remainder escaping out of sight into the 
corn. Proceeding further east, I saw the second patrol 
pursuing six enemy. The leading horse was so tired that 
he was not gaining appreciably on the rearmost Hun. Some 
of the leading fugitives turned about and fired at the cavalry- 
man, when his sword was stretched out and practically 
touching the back of the last Hun. Horse and rider were 
brought down on the left of the road. The remainder of the 
cavalrymen deployed to the right, coming in close under 
the railway embankment, where they dismounted and came 
under fire from the enemy, who had now taken up a position 
on the railway bridge, and were firing over the parapet, 
inflicting one or two casualties. I ran the machine up until 
we had a clear view of the bridge, and killed four of the 
enemy with one long burst, the other two running across 
the bridge and so down the opposite slope out of sight. On 
our left I could see, about three-quarters of a mile away, a 
train on fire being towed by an engine. I proceeded further 
east still parallel to the railway, and approached carefully 
a small valley marked on my map as containing Boche hut- 
ments. As I entered the valley (between Bayonvillers and 
Harbonni^res) at right angles, many enemy were visible 
packing kits and others retiring. On our opening fire on the 
nearest, many others appeared from huts, making for the 

' Captain of the company to which thia tank belonged. 


end of the valley, their object being to get over the embank- 
ment and so out of owe sight. We accounted for many of 
these. I cruised round, Ribbans went into one of the huts 
and returned, and we counted about sixty dead and wounded. 
There were evidences of shell fire amongst the huts, but we 
certainly accounted for most of the casualties counted there. 
I turned left from the railway and cruised across country, as 
lines of enemy infantry could be seen retiring. We fired at 
-these many times at ranges of 200 yards to 600 yards. These 
targets were fleeting, owing to the enemy getting down into 
the corn when fired on. In spite of this, many casualties 
must have been inflicted, as we cruised up and down for at 
least an hour. I did not see any more of our troops or 
machines after leaving the cavalry patrols already referred 
to. During the cruising, being the only machine to get 
through, we invariably received intense rifle and machine- 
gun fire. I would here beg to suggest that no petrol be 
carried on the outside of the machine, as under orders we 
were carrying nine tins of petrol on the roof,^ for refilling 
purposes when well into the enemy lines (should oppor- 
tunity occur). The perforated tins allowed the petrol to 
run all over the cab. These fumes, combined with the 
intense bullet splash and the great heat after being in action 
(by this time) nine to ten hours, made it necessary at this 
point to breathe through the mouthpiece of the box respira- 
tor, without actually wearing the mask. — -~— 

"At 14.00 hours, or thereabouts, I again proceeded east, 
parallel to the railway and about 100 yards north of it. I 
eould see a large aerodrome and also an observation balloon 
at a height of about 200 ft. I could also see great quan- 
tities of motor and horse transport moving in all directions. 
Over the top of another bridge on my left I could see the 
cover of a lorry coming in my direction. I moved up out of 
sight and waited until he topped the bridge, when I shot 
the driver. The lorry ran into a right-hand ditch. The 
railway had now come out of the cutting in which it had 
rested all the while, and I could see both sides of it. I could 
see a long line of men retiring on both sides of the railway, 
and fired at these at ranges of 400 yards to 500 yards, in- 
flicting heavy casualties. I passed through these and also 
accounted for one horse and the driver of a two-horse canvas- 
covered wagon on the far side of the railway. We now 
1 This was contrary to Tank Corps " Standing Battle Orders." 


crossed a small road which crossed the main railway, and 
came in view of a large horse and wagon lines, which ran 
across the railway and close to it. Gunner Ribbans (right- 
hand gun) here had a view of the south side of railway, and 
fired continuously into motor and horse transport moving 
on three roads (one north and south, one almost parallel to 
the railway, and one diagonally between these two). I fired 
many bursts at 600 yards to 800 yards at transport blocking 
roads on my left, causing great confusion. Rifle and machine- 
gun fire was not heavy at this time, owing to our sudden 
appearance, as the roads were all banked up in order to 
cross the railway. There were about twelve men in the 
middle aisle of these lines. I fired a long burst at these. 
Some went down and others got in amongst the wheels 
and undergrowth. I turned quarter left towards a small 
copse, where there were more horses and men, about 200 
yards away. On the way across we met the most intense 
rifle and machine-gun fire imaginable, from all sides. When 
at all possible we returned the fire, until the left-hand re- 
volver port cover was shot away. I withdrew the forward 
gun, locked the mounting, and held the body of the gun 
against the hole. Petrol was still running down the inside 
of the back door. Fumes and heat combined were very bad. 
We were still moving forward, and I was shouting to Driver 
Carney to turn about as it was impossible to continue the 
action, when two heavy concussions closely followed one . 
another and the cab burst into flames. Carney and Ribbans 
got to the door and collapsed. I was almost overcome, but 
managed to get the door open and fell out on to the ground, 
and was able to drag out the other two men^ Burning 
petrol was running on to the ground where we were lying. 
The fresh air revived us and we all got up and made a short 
rush to get away from the burning petrol. We were all on 
fire. In this rush Carney was shot in the stomach and 
killed. We rolled over and over to try to extinguish the 
flames. I saw numbers of the enemy approaching from all 
round. The first arrival came for nie with a rifle and 
bayonet. I got hold of this and the point of the bayonet 
entered my right forearm. The second man struck at my 
head with the butt end of his rifle, hit my shoulder and 
neck, and knocked me down. When I came to, there were 
dozens all round me, and anyone who could reach me did 
so, and I was well kicked ; they were furious. Ribbans and 


I were taken away and stood by. ourselves about twenty 
yards clear of the crowd. An argument ensued, and we 
were eventually marched to a dugout where paper ban- 
dages were put on our hands. Our faces were left as they 
were. We were then marched down the road to the main 
railway. There we joined a party of about eight enemy, 
and marched past a field kitchen where I sighed for food. 
We had had nothing since 8.30 p.m. on the night previous 
to the action and it was 3.30 p.m. when we were set on fire. 
We went on to a village where, on my intelligence map, a 
Divisional H.Q. had been marked. An elderly stout officer 
interrogated me, asking if I was an officer. I said ' Yes.' 
He then asked various other questions, to which I repUed, 
' I do not know. ' He said, ' Do you mean you do not know 
or you will not tell me ? ' I said, ' You can take it which- 
ever way you wish.' He then struck me in the face and 
went away. We went on to Chaulnes to a canvas hospital, 
on the right side of the railway, where I was injected with 
anti-tetanus. Later I was again interrogated with the 
same result as above, except that instead of being struck, I 
received five days' solitary confinement in a room with no 
window and only a small piece of bread and a bowl of soup 
each day. On the fifth day I was again interrogated, and 
said the same as before. I said that he had no right to give 
me solitary confinement and that unless I were released I 
should, at the first opportunity, report him to the highest 
possible authority. The next day I was sent away and 
eventually reached the camp at Freiburg, where I found my 
brother. Captain A. E. Arnold, M.C., Tank Corps. The con- 
duct of Gunner Ribbans and Driver Carney was beyond all 
praise throughout. Driver Carney drove from Villers- 
Bretonneux onwards." ' 

(Signed) C. B, Arnold, Lieut., 

6th Tank Battalion, 
January 1, 1919. 

1 This report was written by Lieut. Arnold after his return from Germany. 
The tank was eventually found close to the railway on the eastern side of 
the Harbonnieres-Rosieres road. 



The tardy development of both tanks and anti-tank de- 
fences has been referred to ; from this it is evident that the 
Germans did not take kindly to the tank idea. In the tank 
they apparently only saw a cumbersome machine, a land 
Merrimac ; they were unable to read the writing in iron or 
to xmderstand the message that this machine brought with 
it on to every battlefield, namely, " the doom to all mus- 
cular warfare." Why they took so little interest in tanks 
may have been due to the feeling that time lacked for their 
development ; it may have been due to the extremely low 
opinion held by the German Higher Command of our general- 
ship, which prejudiced them against a purely British idea. 
These, however, are trivial reasons, and there must have been 
a deeper and broader foundation to their prejudice. The 
two following extracts from documents issued by the German 
General Staff appear to supply the real reason : 

(i) From an account of the German offensive of 1918 : 

" The use of 300 British tanks at Cambrai (1917) was a 
battle of materiel. . . . The German Higher Command 
decided, from the very outset, not to fight a battle of 

(ii) From an order issued by the German G.H.Q., similar 
to many others issued during the war : 

" The Higher Command is continually hearing that men 
who are classified as ' fit for garrison duty ' are of the opinion 
that there is no need for them to fight and that officers hesi- 
tate to demand that they should do so. This totally erroneous 
assumption must be definitely and rigorously stamped out. 



Men in the field who are classified as fit for garrison or labour 
duties, but who can carry a rifle, must fight." 

Such was the German tactical policy : masses of men 
rather than efficiency of weapons, quantity of flesh rather 
than quality of steel. 

The pohcy of drafting into first-line formations men who 
could only just carry a rifle began in 1915. Since this date 
it was the constant complaint of the German regimental 
officer that he was obliged " to carry " in his unit an ever- 
increasing number of useless men — men who, for physical 
or moral reasons, were unfit to fight, who never intended to 
fight, and who never did fight. 

The best men went to the machine-gun units and to the 
assault troops. In many cases the remainder of the infantry 
were of little fighting value, though many of these men might 
otherwise have been usefully employed in a war, which if 
not one of materiel, was at least one in which economic 
factors such as man-power played an important part. 

By abiding by this policy of " cannon-fodder " the Ger- 
man Higher Command was able to look at an order of battle 
totalhng some 250 divisions — on paper a terrific muscular 
force. Being pledged to a policy of emplojang masses of 
men for fighting, the Germans were not in a position to find 
labour for the construction of additional weapons such as 
tanks. It now seems clear that this policy, at least as far 
as tanks were concerned, was regretted before the end of 
the war, as the following extracts and quotations will show : 

In July 1918 General Ludendorff wrote : " In all the open- 
warfare questions in the course of their great defensive 
between the Marne and the Vesle, the French were only able 
to obtain one initial tactical success due to surprise, namely, 
that of July 18, 1918. It is to the tanks that the enemy 
owes his success." A similar remark was made in an order 
of the List Corps on July 23, 1918 : " As soon as the tanks 
are destroyed the whole attack fails." 

The tank victory at the battle of Amiens brought forth 
a rich crop of appreciative comments from the Germans. 
Ludendorff on August 11 wrote : 


"Staff officers sent from G.H.Q. report that the reasons 
for the defeat of the Second Army are as follows : 'The fact 
that the troops were surprised by the massed attack of 
tanks, and lost their heads when the tanks suddenly ap- 
peared behind them, having broken through under cover of 
natural and artificial fog . . . the fact that the artillery 
allotted to reserve infantry units . . . was wholly insuffi- 
cient to establish fresh resistance . . . against the enemy 
who had broken through and against his tanks.' " 

A 2 1st Infantry Divisional Order dated August 15 con- 
tained the following : 

" Recent fighting has shown that our infantry is capable 
of repelling an unsupported hostile infantry attack and is 
not dependent on our protective barrage. 

" On the other hand, a massed tank attack, as put in by 
the enemy during the recent fighting, requires stronger artil- 
lery defensive measures. 

" The duty of the infantry is to keep the enemy advanc- 
ing under cover of the tanks (whether infantry, cavalry, or 
aeroplanes) away from our artillery in order to give the 
latter freedom of action in its main r61e, viz. : the engage- 
ment of tanks." 

This clear statement that the main duty of the artillery 
has become the engagement of tanks is noteworthy, especi- 
ally when compared with previous orders which stated that 
the allotment of artillery to tank defences must not inter- 
fere with defensive barrages and counter-battery work. 

This document continues : 

" Counter-attacks against hostile infantry supported by 
tanks do not offer any chances of success and demand un- 
necessary sacrifices ; they must, therefore, only be launched 
if the tanks have been put out of action." 

Thus two of the mainstays of the former German defence, 
i.e. " the protective barrage " and " the immediate counter- 
attack," were abandoned in the event of tank attacks. 


Yet one more order is interesting, that issued on August 12 
to the Crown Prince's Group of Armies : 

" G.H.Q. reports that during the recent fighting on the 
fronts of the Second and Eighteenth Armies, large numbers 
of tanks broke through on narrow fronts, and pushing 
straight forward, rapidly attacked battery positions and the 
Headquarters of Divisions. 

" In many cases no defence could be made in time against 
the tanks, which attacked them from all sides. 

" Anti-tank defence must now be developed to deal with 
such situations." 

" Messages concerning tanks will have priority over all 
other messages or calls whatsoever " is the last extract we 
will here quote, this order being sent out on September 8, 
1918. These few words alone are sufficient to show that 
the enemy at last had awakened to the danger of the tank 
and was now making frenzied efforts to organise, at all 
costs, an efficient anti-tank defence. 

It was now no longer the pluck of our Royal Air Force, 
the courage of our infantry, or the masses of our shells, it 
was the tank which threatened the German with destruction 
and against which he now concentrated all his energy. 
These efforts were, however, so belated that even the 
schemes and orders issued were contradictory and lack- 
ing in co-ordination ; the actual practice was, needless to say, 
still more diverse. 

From August 1918 onwards the success of almost every 
Allied attack was attributed to tanks in the German official 
communiques. The Alhes were stated to have captured 
such-and-such a place " by means of masses of tanks " 
even on occasions when very few tanks had actually been 
used. This explanation of any German lack of success by 
reference to tanks soon produced very marked results both 
in the German soldier and the German public. 

Since the German Higher Command could explain away 
failure in the event of tank attack the German regimental 
officer very naturally came to consider that the presence of 


tanks was a sufficient reason for the loss of any position 
entrusted to his care. His men came to consider that in 
the presence of tanks they could not be expected to hold 
out. Most German officers when captured were anxious to 
explain that their captiire was inevitable and that they had 
done all that could be expected of them. From this time 
onwards their explanations generally became very simple : 
" The tanks had arrived, there was nothing to be done." 
The failure of the Higher Command to produce tanks to 
combat those used by the Allies began to undermine the 
faith of the troops in their generals. 

As a result of the " massed tank attacks," so frequently 
referred to in the communiques, the leading German mili- 
tary correspondents dealt with the tank question at con- 
siderable length. They pointed out the vital importance of 
tanks and inquired what the German Higher Command 
proposed to do about it, or reassured their readers that the 
situation was well in hand and that a German tank would 
shortly make its appearance in adequate numbers. So 
nervous did the press grow that the War Ministry found it 
necessary to offer an explanation. 

General von Wrisberg, speaking for the Minister of War 
in the Reichstag, made the following statement : 

" The attack on August 8 between the Avre and the Ancre 
was not unexpected by our leaders. When, nevertheless, 
the Enghsh succeeded in achieving a great success the 
reasons are to be sought in the massed employment of tanks 
and surprise under the protection of fog. . . . 

" The American Armies also should not terrify us. We 
shall also settle with them. More momentous for us was the 
question of tanks. We are adequately armed against them. 
Anti-tank defence is nowadays more a question of nerve 
than materiel." 

On October 23 the German Wireless published the follow- 
ing statement by General Scheuch, Minister of War : 

" Germany will never need to make peace owing to a 
shortage of war materiel. The superiority of the enemy 


at present is principally due to their use of tanks. We 
have been actively engaged for a long period in working at 
producing this weapon (which is recognised as important) 
in adequate numbers. We shall thus have an additional 
means for the successful continuance of the war, if we are 
compelled to continue it." 

This statement was obviously made in reply to public 
criticism, but the statement that efforts were being made 
to produce a large number of tanks appears to be true. 

It is doubtful, however, if it were true to say that they 
had been actively working on tanks for a long time. It is 
credibly reported that when Hindenburg visited the German 
Tank Centre near Charleroi in February 1918, he remarked, 
" I do not think that tanks are any use, but as these have 
been made they may as well be tried." This remark of the Ger- 
man Commander-in-Chief was typical of the general feeling of 
the German Great General Staff towards tanks up to August 8, 
1918. In our own Army it also expressed precisely the 
feeling of a section of our Higher Command. It is hoped 
that, as this chapter shows the. Germans were eventually, 
though too late, cured of their want of foresight, we have 
also been. As to this the future alone will enlighten us. 



Prior to July 1, 1918, no definite aeroplane and tank co- 
operation had been organised, though the want of such 
co-operation had been long felt, and in one of the attacks 
on Bourlon wood, during the battle of Cambrai, aeroplanes 
had proved their value in protecting tanks from the enemy's 
field guns. 

The assistance which aeroplanes can afford tanks falls 
under the two main headings of information and protection ; 
in the future, no doubt, those of command and supply will 
be added. 

Prior to the battle of Arras, in February and March 1917, 
certain experiments were carried out in communication 
between tanks, aeroplanes and captive balloons by means 
of the Aldis daylight signalling lamp, as already mentioned 
in Chapter XXIV ; these experiments did not prove a 
success. During the battle of Messines aeroplanes, with 
considerable accuracy, reported the whereabouts of tanks on 
the battlefield. At the Third Battle of Ypres this useful 
work was continued, and again at the battle of Cambrai, 
but during these last operations the days were usually so 
misty as to forbid much useful work being accomplished. 

After the battle of Cambrai every endeavour was made 
by the Tank Corps to get this co-operation regularised and 
placed on a sound footing, but except for some remarkable 
tests carried out by the 1st Tank Brigade in the vicinity of 
Fricourt, in February 1918, in which it was conclusively 
demonstrated that low-flying aeroplanes could render the 
greatest protective assistance to tanks, nothing was done to 
institute a definite system of co-operation. To do so, only 
one thing was required — namely, the attachment of a flight 


NO. 8 SQUADRON, R.A.F. 243 

or squadron of aeroplanes to the Tank Corps for experi- 
mental purposes. At length on July 1, 1918, some five weeks 
before the battle of Amiens began, No. 8 Squadron, R.A.F., 
equipped with eighteen Armstrong- Whitworth machines, was 
attached to the Tank Corps, for the purpose of co-operating 
with the tanks and carrying out experiments with a view 
to future development. This squadron was under the 
command of Major T. Leigh-Mallory, D.S.O., and it was due 
to the energy of this officer that, in the extremely short 
time available, such extensive progress was made in aero- 
plane and tank co-operation, especially in contact work. 
The benefit which resulted from this co-operation cannot be 
over-estimated . 

Early in June, No. 42 Squadron, R.A.F., had already 
carried out experiments with smoke flares and Very lights 
which were successful, whilst No. 22 Squadron attempted 
wireless telephony, and No. 15 Squadron visual signalling 
communication by means of discs swung out from the fusel- 
age. These experiments formed the basis of the work 
which No. 8 Squadron now started on with the 1st, 3rd, and 
5th Tank Brigades, continuing it up to the opening of the 
August offensive. 

The account of the co-operation of No. 8 Squadron may 
be conveniently divided into three periods : 

(i) The period of preparation, July 1 to August 8. 

(ii) The battle of Amiens. 

(iii) The battle of Bapaume to November 11, 1918. 

During the last-mentioned period No. 8 Squadron was re- 
inforced by No. 73 Squadron, which, being equipped with 
Sopwith-Camel machines, was able to deal effectively with 
the enemy's anti-tank guns. 

The first essential of successful co-operation being com- 
radeship, a firm alliance was at once established between 
the flights of No. 8 Squadron and the tank units with which 
this squadron was working. This was carried out by at- 
taching tank officers to the flights, these officers frequently 
flying, whilst pilots and observers were given rides in the 


The battle of Hamel, on July 4, was the first occasion 
upon which aeroplanes were definitely detailed to work 
with tanks, C Flight of No. 8 Squadron being attached to 
the 5th Tank Brigade for this operation. The morning was 
a peculiarly dark one, with clouds at 1,000 ft. ; nevertheless 
one aeroplane managed to get off at 2.50 a.m. and a second 
at 3 a.m. These two machines flew low over the enemy's 
lines with the object of drowning the noise of the approach- 
ing tanks. Later on another machine, flying down into the 
smoke of the artillery barrage, silenced some guns which 
were giving considerable trouble. Altogether the assistance 
that No. 8 Squadron rendered the Tank Corps, on this the 
first occasion upon which these two mechanical arms co- 
operated, boded well of the future. 

After the battle of Hamel, tests and training were con- 
tinued, " B " Flight concentrating on wireless telegraphy 
and telephony with the 1st Tank Brigade, and " A " Flight 
on visual signalling with the 3rd Tank Brigade. 

The wireless telephony tests, though of exceptional in- 
terest, did not prove very successful. Under very favourable 
conditions speech could be heard in a moving tank from an 
aeroplane flying at an altitude of 500 ft. and not more than 
a quarter of a mile away. It was consequently decided 
that, for immediate use, wireless telephony was not a prac- 
tical means of communication. 

Towards the end of July a series of most successful tests 
were carried out in wireless telegraphy, tanks clearly receiv- 
ing messages from aeroplanes at 2,500 ft. altitude and 
9,000 yards away. Successful as ithese experiments proved, 
they were destined to be still-born, for time was insufficient 
to develop them or to apply them during active opera- 

The disc signalling carried out by " A " Flight was insti- 
tuted as a means of directing Whippet tanks on to their 
objectives. By degrees a complete code of signals was 
evolved so that the aeroplane was able to communicate both 
the nature and direction of the target. In conjunction 
with disc signalling, various kinds of smoke bombs and 


Very lights were experimented with, and by means of these 
several very successful manoeuvres were carried out at the 
Tank Gunnery School at Merlimont. 

In spite of the fact that the period of preparation was 
too short to enable the results of tests to be applied in battle, 
pilots and observers had got to know a great many of the 
tank officers with whom they were going to co-operate, and 
in addition had learnt much concerning the limitations of 
tanks, and the kind of information required by their staffs 
and crews during action. 

The programme of work for No. 8 Squadron on the open- 
ing day of the battle of Amiens was as follows : 

(i) Machines to fly over the line for the last hour of the 
tank approach march in order to drown the noise of the 
tank engines. 

(ii) Contact and counter-attack patrols to keep tank units 
constantly informed, by dropping messages at fixed stations, 
as to the progress of the battle. 

(iii) All machines were instructed to help the tanks when- 
ever an opportunity arose. 

On August 5 the Squadron concentrated at Vignacourt, 
" C " Flight being detailed to work with the 5th Tank Bri- 
gade and " B " and " A " Fhghts with the 4th and 3rd 

At 2.50 a.m. on August 8 three machines " took off " to 
cover the tanks during the last hour of the approach march. 
The morning was dark and the clouds appeared high. Each 
of these machines dropped six 25 lb. bombs, at intervals, 
over the enemy's lines. Between 4.50 a.m. and 5 a.m. the 
first four tank-contact patrol machines " took off." The 
valleys were already coated with thick mist and within an 
hour the whole country for miles was obscured. By flying 
very low and making use of gaps in the mist, one of these 
machines was able to report that tanks had passed through 
Demuin, and consequently it was known that the bridge 
there must be intact. The first message to be dropped at 
the Advanced Headquarters of the Tank Corps read as 
follows : 


" To Advanced H.Q. Tank Corps 
" (per aeroplane). 
"W.4. 8th. 

" Machine landed 8.30 a.m. reports AAA 6.15 a.m. 4 tanks 
seen in action on a line SCO yards west of road through C.lT.b, 
C.ll.d, C.12.a AAA 7.15 a.m. 4 tanks seen together heading 
E on road beyond Hourges at C.ll central AAA 3 tanks seen 
together in C.6.d uncertain AAA 7.20 a.m. Green Line taken, 
tanks rallying to move off again AAA Foregoing report 
applies to 5th Tank Battalion Sector AAA 7.45 a.m. 4 tanks 
on road leading north out of Demuin V.25.C.4.8 AAA 1 
tank at D.l.c central AAA 4 tanks at C.ll.d.3.8 heading 
east AAA 7.45 a.m. French infantry seen in large numbers 
on western outskirts of Moreuil wood and French barrage 
on a line C.17.C C.23.a, & C.29.a & 28.D AAA Motor trans- 
port probably armoured cars seen on road in U.26 near 
Domart AAA German balloon observed up just east of Caix 
about 8 a.m. at 1,200 ft. AAA Bombs dropped in W.22.d 
south of Harbonni^res, target guns AAA Addressed 22nd 
Wing 3rd, 4th and 5th Tank Bde. Advanced Hqrs. AAA. 

" Sent by aeroplane to dropping ground Advanced H.Q. 
Tank Corps. 
" Note added. 

" Cavalry and tanks in large numbers proceeding east at 
8 a.m. south of Bois d'Aquenne. 

" Intelligence Oflficer, 

" 8th Squadron, R.A.F. 
" 8.50 a.m." 

Many other such messages were dropped during the day, 
the Tank Brigade Headquarters being well posted with in- 
formation as the attack proceeded. 

On the following three days of the battle the enemy's 
resistance in the air became much more marked. On 
August 9 and 10 good targets were observed from the air 
in the form of large parties of infantry and transport. On 
the 10th, Captain West and Lieutenant Haslam were co- 
operating with tanks near Rosieres when movement along 
the roads was noticed in the neighbourhood of Roye. Al- 
though some 8,000 yards from our lines Captain West im- 
mediately flew his machines in that direction and with great 

NO. 73 SQUADRON, R.A.F. 247 

effect bombed and fired on the enemy's transport moving 
eastwards. Just as he turned to fly back he was attacked 
by seven Fokker biplanes. With almost the first burst one 
of the hostile machines, which had got above Captain West's 
right-hand wing, shot his left leg off between the knee and 
the thigh, three explosive bullets hitting it. In spite of 
the fact that West's leg fell amongst the controls and that 
he was wounded ih the right foot he managed to fly his 
machine back and land it in our lines. For this act of gal- 
lantry he was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

During the battle of Amiens aeroplane co-operation had 
been chiefly confined to contact and counter-attack patrols. 
The tanks had, however, during this battle, suffered heavily 
from the German field guns, so, in the next great battle, the 
battle of Bapaume, it was decided to make counter-gun 
work a feature of aeroplane co-operation. 

Instead of sending all machines up on contact and counter- 
attack patrol, as many machines as possible were reserved 
for counter-gun work. From this time onwards the ten- 
dency was to concentrate more and more on this important 
duty, and as fresh experiences were gained this work grew 
more and more successful. Fortunately, just before the 
Third Army, attack began, on August 21, No. 73 Squadron 
(Sopwith-Camels) was attached to the Tank Corps for this 
form of co-operation. 

The tactics adopted in this counter-gun work are inter- 
esting. To send down zone calls was useless, as the German 
gunners opened fire, as a rule, when the tanks were but 1,000 
yards away. Immediate action was, therefore, necessary, 
and this was taken by bombing and machine-gunning hostile 
artillery until the tanks had run over the emplacements. 
The method of locating the hostile gun positions consisted 
in carefully studying the ground prior to the attack by 
consulting maps and air photographs, and from this study 
to make out a chart of all likely gun positions. On Sep- 
tember 2 a most valuable document was captured which set 
forth the complete scheme the Germans had adopted in 
connection with the distribution of their guns for anti-tank 


work ; further, in this document were described the various 
types of positions anti-tank gunners should take up. By 
the aid of this document and a large-scale map it was pos- 
sible to plot out beforehand the majority of possible gun 
positions. As each of our aeroplanes had only about 2,000 
yards of front to watch, the result was that all likely places 
were periodically bombed. In this way, by selecting the 
Hkely places beforehand, a great number of anti-tank guns 
were spotted as soon as they opened fire, and thus immense 
service was rendered to the tanks. 

August 21 was the most disappointing day No. 8 
Squadron experienced whilst attached to the Tank Corps. 
The morning was very foggy and it was quite impossible for 
the machines to leave the ground imtil 11 a.m., a little over 
six hours after zero, which was at 4.55 a.m. In spite of this 
the counter-gun machines were not too late to carry out 
useful work against several batteries ; this work was chiefly 
carried out by No. 73 Squadron, which was quite new to 
the work. The value of the experience gained on this day 
was amply demonstrated by the effective work carried out 
by this Squadron on the 23rd, when many hostile guns were 
attacked and their crews scattered. A good example of the 
valuable work carried out by No. 73 Squadron occurred on 
September 2. 

A gun was observed being man- handled towards Chaufours 
wood ; 800 rounds were fired at it, the gun crew leaving the 
gun and seeking security in the wood. A little later on this 
crew, emerging from the wood, attempted to haul the gun 
into it ; fire was once again opened by the aeroplane, but in 
spite of it the crew succeeded in their object. Bombs were 
then dropped on the wood, and no fxirther movement was 

On September 29 a wireless-signal tank was used as a 
dropping station. This proved a most useful innovation, 
for one aeroplane dropping its message at this station found, 
on its return home, that this message had been received by 
the headquarters to which it was directed within a few 
minutes of it having been dropped, in fact, far quicker than 


it would have been had the aeroplane dropped it at the 
headquarters itself. 

The dropping of messages to tanks in action was also 
successfully accomphshed during the 29th. One of these 
messages sent down the information that the Germans 
were still holding the village of Bony; a group of tanks, 
receiving this, at once wheeled towards Bony and attacked it. 

On October 8 aeroplanes once again carried out useful 
co-operation with the tanks. The following account is 
taken from the report of an aeroplane the pilot of which 
observed the tanks attackmg Serain : 

" As the tanks were approaching we dropped bombs on 
various parties of Germans who were in the village. The 
tanks were then surrounding the village, one going right 
into the centre of it ; a second attacked the orchard to the 
south, mopping up parties of Germans ; whilst a third came 
round the north of the village and was approaching a small 
valley in which were 200 to 300 Germans covered by a 
stretch of dead ground. On seeing the tank approaching 
the Germans fled eastwards, whereupon we flew towards 
them firing our machine guns, doing great execution." 

Such actions as these were of daily occurrence and they 
only went to prove what the headquarters of the Tank 
Corps had long held — namely, that the co-operation of 
aeroplanes with tanks is of incalculable importance, the 
aeroplanes protecting the tanks and the tanks protecting 
the infantry. In the future, no doubt, not only will mes- 
sages be dropped and hostile guns silenced, but the com- 
manders of tank battahons will be carried in the air, these 
officers communicating with their machines by means of 
wireless telephony, and supplies of petrol will be transported 
by means of aeroplane for the replenishment of the tanks. 




The operations which took place between the conclusion of 
the great battle of Amiens and the signing of the armistice 
may conveniently be divided into three periods : 

(i) The battle of Bapaume and the Second Battle of Arras 
— August 21 to September 3. 

(ii) The battles of Epehy and Cambrai St. Quentin — 
September 18 to October 10. 

(iii) The battles of the Selle and Maubeuge — October 17 
to November 11. 

The first comprises the fighting in the devastated area, 
the second the breaking through of the Hindenburg system 
of trenches, and the third open warfare east of this system. 
Each of these periods will be dealt with in a separate chapter, 
in which most of the detail of battle preparation will be 
omitted so as to avoid a repetition of descriptions of work 
which had by now been reduced to a routine in the Tank 

Towards the end of the battle of Amiens it became apparent 
that the enemy was commencing to withdraw his troops in 
the Pusieux-Serre area opposite the Third Army front, and 
that, in all probability, this retirement was only part of a 
general withdrawal on the entire front south of the Scarpe. 
It was, therefore, decided on August 13 that the Third Army 
should prepare an attack on the German front north of 
the Somme, whilst the Fourth Ai'my continued to press the 
enemy south of this river. Consequent on this decision the 
3rd, 6th, 9th, 10th, 14th, and 15th Tank Battalions were 
withdrawn from the Fourth Army area, and concentrated 
in that of the Third. On August 15 to these battaUons were 
added the 7th, 11th, and 12th of the 1st Tank Brigade. These 


AUGUST 21, 1918 251 

moves necessitated a complete reshuffling of Tank Brigades, 
which on August 19 were constituted as follows : 

(i) In the Third Army Area : 

Ist Tank Brigade 

3rd Battalion 

Medium A. 


Mark IV. 




Armoured oars 

2nd Tank Brigade 


Medium A. 


Mark IV, 


Mark V Star. 

3rd Tank Brigade 


Mark V. 


Mark V Star. 


Mark V. 

(ii) In the Fourth Army Area 


4th Tank Brigade 

1st Battalion 

Mark V Star. 


Mark V. 


Mark V. 

5th Tank Brigade 


Mark V. 


Mark V. 


Mark V. 

On the Third Army front the attack was to be launched 
on August 21 and, if successful, this attack was to be pushed 
forward and the front extended by an attack delivered by 
the Fourth Army south of the Somme. The general plan 
was as follows : 

The Vlth, IVth, and Vth Corps of the Third Army were 
to attack on the line Beaucourt-sur-Ancre — Moyenneville, a 
frontage of 17,000 yards, with the object of driving the 
enemy eastwards across the Arras-Bapaume road and of 
forcing him from the Somme area. Tanks were only to 
operate between Moyenneville and Bucquoy, as the ground 
south of this frontage was unsuited to tank movement ; for 
this reason no tanks were allotted to the Vth Corps. 

The allotment of tanks was as follows : 

Vlth Corps . . 2nd and 3rd Tank Brigades. 

IVth Corps . . 1st Tank Brigade. 

Owing to the little time available and the necessity for 
maintaining secrecy it was not possible to carry out any 
training with the divisions of the Third Army ; many of 
these, however, had previously attended demonstrations at 


Bermicourt, to supplement which notes were now issued and 
as many lectures as possible given prior to this attack. 

Another difficulty was reconnaissance, time for which was 
most limited. Again previous work came to the rescue ; for 
many officers in the Tank Corps had carefully studied the 
area of attack prior to the Second Battle of the Somme and 
had fought over it during the German spring offensive. 

On the Fourth Army front the Ilird Corps, on the left 
of this Army and north of the river Somme, was to attack 
between Bray and Albert. The 4th Tank Brigade was to 
assist in the attack and its machines were allotted to divisions 
as follows : 

4th Battalion . 10 tanks to 12th Division. 

,, ,, .4 tanks to 18th Division. 

5th Battalion . 10 tanks to 47th Division. 

1st Battalion . 15 tanks to Fourth Army reserve. 

South of the Somme the 5tli Tank Brigade was ordered 
to co-operate with the Australian Corps on the front Herle- 
ville — ChuignoUes ; the object of the attack being to capture 
these villages and the rise running east of them. Tanks 
were allotted as follows : 

8th Battahon . 12 tanks to 32nd Division. 

2nd Battahon . 12 tanks to 1st Australian Brigade. 

13th Battahon . 12 tanks to 2nd AustraUan Brigade. 

The battle of Bapaume, which began on August 21, is of 
particular interest in that it was the first attack launched 
against a new tactical system of defence recently adopted 
by the enemy, namely, the holding of his reserves well in 
rear of a lightly held outpost line. In conformity with the 
principles of this system of defence in depth the Germans 
had withdrawn their guns behind the Albert- Arras railway ; 
this eventually complicated the tank attack, for had they 
remained forward, as so frequently they had heretofore done, 
they would have been surprised and captured during the 
first phase of the battle ; as it was, they accounted for 
many of our machines during the third phase. 

In consequence of the enemy's new system of defence and 


the varying powers of the three marks of machines used by 
the 1st and 2nd Tank Brigades, tanks were disposed in 
echelons as follows : 

(i) Two battalions of Mark IV tanks to operate as far as 
the second objective. 

(ii) One battalion of Mark V and one of Mark V star 
machines to operate against the second objective and pro- 
ceed as far as the Albert- Arras railway. 

(iii) Two battahons of Whippets to operate beyond the 
Albert- Arras railway line. 

Zero hour was at 4.55 a.m. The Mark IV battalion moved 
forward and successfully cleared the first objective and 
pushed on towards the second. Once again the attack was 
a surprise, perhaps not so much through it being unexpected 
as through the inability of the Germans to meet it, especially 
as their guns had been withdrawn. To illustrate how com- 
plete this surprise was it is only necessary to mention that 
candles were found still burning in the trenches when we 
crossed them, and papers and equipment scattered broad- 
cast gave evidence of the hurried flight of the enemy. The 
second echelon and the Whippets had, however, a far more 
difficult task to accomplish. The Albert- Arras railway had, 
previous to the attack, been turned into a strongly defended 
line of machine-gun nests covered by the German guns east 
of it. Unfortunately the thick ground mist, which had 
shielded the approach of the first echelon, now began to lift • 
this enabled the German artillery observers to direct a 
deadly fire on the tanks, in fact, each individual tank became 
the centre of a zone of bullets and bursting shells. Avoiding 
these zones, our infantry pushed on with few casualties. 
During this day's fighting many parties of the enemy, some 
over a hundred strong, surrendered en bloc directly the tanks 
were seen approaching. Such action on the part of the 
German infantry was becoming a stereotyped procedure in 
all tank attacks. On the 21st, of the 190 tanks which took 
part in the attack, 37 received direct hits. 

On August 22 the Ilird Corps launched its attack on a 
front of some 10,000 yards with complete success. The 


tanks, which had been instructed by the Ilird Corps to pro- 
ceed in rear of the infantry, in actual fact led the attack 
the whole way, effecting a penetration of about 4,000 yards. 
All objectives were gained, and at the end of the day our 
line ran east of Albert, east of Meaulte, east of the Happy 
Valley, and through the western outskirts of Bray-sur- 

On the following day the attack of the Illrd Corps was 
continued in conjunction with that of the Third Army to the 
north and the Australian Corps to the south. The Ilird 
Corps captured Tara and Usna hills, employing six tanks of 
the 1st Tank Battalion in this action. On the Australian 
front the thirty-six machines of the 5th Tank Brigade de- 
ployed and led the infantry right on to their objective, which 
was successfully occupied. On reaching this the machines 
of the 2nd and 13th Battalions exploited north of ChuignoUes 
with the 3rd Australian Brigade, whilst those of the 8th 
Battalion rallied. During this attack the enemy put up a 
stout resistance, his machine-gunners fighting with great 
spirit and in many cases continuing to fire their guns until 
run over by the tanks. Curiously enough, in comparison with 
this, on the previous day the enemy's machine-gunners on 
the Ilird Corps front scarcely put up any fight at all, and 
when asked why they had not done so replied : " Oh ! it 
would not have been any good." 

The following is a typical battle-history sheet depicting 
the tank fighting at this period ; it was written by a tank 
commander who took part in the above attack. 

" At 4.25 a.m. on the 23rd instant, I proceeded with my 
female tank ' Mabel ' (No. 9382) in front of the infantry. I 
made a very zigzag course to the wood in the south-west 
edge of the village of ChuignoUes, where I encountered an 
anti-tank gun which was eventually knocked out by the 
male tank commanded by 2hd Lieut. Simmonds, who was 
operating on my right. I then worked up the south side 
of the village, heavily machine-gunning all the crops and 
copses, and dislodged several machine-gun crews of the 
enemy. I next came back to the village and mopped up the 


enemy on the outskirts until it was clear. Then, emerging 
from the smoke of two shells which dropped short, I found 
myself in the midst of a battery of whizz-bangs. The gunners 
of this battery I at once proceeded to obliterate with good 
success, after which I came behind another battery and 
proceeded with the same operation. Then I started to take 
infantry over to the high ground south of Square wood 
in L.35d, when I was called back by an Australian colonel 
to attend to some M.G. nests which had been left in the 
centre of the village ; here I mopped up twelve M.G. nests 
and then started to catch up the remainder of the tanks 
and the barrage, but while at the top of a very steep bank, 
approximately R. 10. b. 30. 50, I received a direct hit from 
a whizz-bang on the front horns, which sent me out of con- 
trol to the bottom of the bank, where I found it had broken 
one plate of my left track. After repairing this, the barrage 
having finished, and as tanks were coming back to rally, I 
brought my tank back to the rallying-point at Amy wood." 

In the Third Army the attack was re-opened on August 23 
'by a moonlight operation, starting at 4 a.m., carried out 
against the village of Gomiecourt. The 3rd Division, sup- 
ported by ten Mark IV tanks of the 12th Battalion, attacked 
this village and carried it. A little later the Guards Divi- 
sion with four Mark IV. s captured the village of Hamelin- 

At 11 a.m. the Vlth Corps, assisted by fifteen Whippets, 
attacked in the direction of Ervillers — Behagnies — Sapignies, 
and by noon were east of the Bapaume-Arras road. Near 
Sapignies heavy machine-gun fire was encountered, which 
prevented our infantry moving forward ; notwithstanding 
this the Whippets continued their advance. In one machine 
the officer and sergeant were killed; the remaining man, 
however, after placing the corpses in a shell-hole, continued 
single-handed to follow the other tanks, and when a target 
offered itself, locked his back axle and fired his Hotchkiss 
gun. Although Sapignies and Behagnies were not captured 
the operation was successful in securing a large number of 
prisoners. This attack materially assisted that of the 
IVth Corps on Achiet-le-Grand and Bihucourt, which were 


captured by the 37th Division and six Mark V tanks of the 
1st Tank Brigade. 

At 5.7 a.m., in spite of a very heavy gas barrage which 
took place between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., eighteen tanks of the 
11th BattaUon and eight of the 9th Battalion co-operated 
with the 52nd and 56th Divisions in an attack on the Hamel- 
incourt-Heninel spur. Both these objectives were carried 
with small loss. 

On August 24 the attacks of the Third and Fourth Armies 
were pushed with vigour, the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Tank Brigades 

At 2 a.m. on the IVth Corps front four Mark IV machines 
assisted the 37th Division west of Sapignies ; later on, seven 
Mark IV tanks and nineteen Whippets attacked with the 
New Zealand and 37th Divisions on Grevillers, BiefviUers, and 
Loupart wood, which were captured. On the front of the 
56th Division a bloody engagement began at 7 a.m. for the 
ownership of the line St. Leger — ^Henin-sur-Cojeul, eleven 
tanks of the 11th Battalion co-operating after an approach 
march of 10,000 yards. All objectives were gained. At 2 p.m. 
this attack was continued, two tanks leading the infantry 
north of Croisilles as far as the Hindenburg Line, which was 
strongly held. Both these machines had particularly excit- 
ing experiences. One received a direct hit which rendered 
the officer commanding it unconscious ; recovering his 
senses, he at once took charge of his machine and pushed on. 
In the other the crew were forced to evacuate the tank on 
account of the enemy surrounding it with phosphorus 
bombs ; before leaving it the officer in command turned the 
tank's head towards home and then, getting out, walked 
between the front horns of the machine until the fumes had 
cleared away. All this time the tank was surrounded by the 
enemy. This attack failed ; it is interesting, however, to 
note that one tank of the 11th Battalion covered during this 
operation 40,000 yards in some twenty-six hours. 

At 3.30 p.m. five tanks of the 9th Battalion took part in 
an attack on the line Mory copse — Camouflage copse. At first 
there was not much opposition, but after Mory copse was 


reached the enemy put up a stout resistance and, refusing to 
surrender, was killed almost to a man, one party of about 
sixty being put out of action by four rounds of 6-pounder 
case shot. 

At dawn this day on the Fourth Army front five tanks of 
the 1st Battalion assisted the 47th Division in the recapture 
of the Happy Valley, which had been lost on the previous 
afternoon. This attack was entirely successful, and besides 
the Happy Valley the extensive village of Bray was added 
to our gains. 

On the evening of August 24 the 3rd Tank Brigade was 
transferred from the Third Army to the Canadian Corps of 
the First Army for the forthcoming attack on the First 
Army front, which was to initiate the Second Battle of 
Arras. This entailed a lengthy night march of 29,000 yards 
from Blaireville and Boisleux-au-Mont to Moyenneville, 
thence to Achicourt. 

On August 25 minor tank attacks were carried out on 
the IVth Corps front against Favreuil, Avesnes, Thilloy, and 
Sapignies, and on the 26th tanks of the 9th Battalion, some 
of which had moved 37,000 yards since the night of the 
24th-25th, attacked with the Guards Division north of 
Mory. This attack was not a great success, due to the dense 
mist, which made co-operation almost impossible and the 
maintenance of direction most difficult. During this engage- 
ment one tank had five members of its crew wounded by 
anti-tank rifle bullets. 

On the Canadian Corps' front an attack was carried out 
opposite Fampoux and Neuville-Vitasse, the 2nd and 3rd 
Canadian Divisions operating with tanks of the 9th and 11th 
Divisions against Wancourt, Guemappe, and Monchy-le- 
Preux. Near Monchy several tanks were knocked out, the 
crews joining the infantry to repel a local counter-attack. 
The sergeant of one crew, hearing that the enemy had cap- 
tured his tank, collected his men and charged forward to 
recover it, arriving at one sponson door of the machine as 
the enemy were scrambling out of the opposite one. 

On the following day, the 27th, operations continued east 


of Monchy-le-Preux, and in the Guemappe-Cherisy area, but 
ceased altogether as far as tanks were concerned until the 
29th. On this day minor tank operations were carried out 
on the Third Army front south-west of Beugnatre by the 
1st Brigade, the enemy having evacuated Thilloy and 
Bapaume. This Brigade, on the 30th, co-operated with the 
5th British and New Zealand Divisions against Fremicourt, 
Beugny, Bancourt, Haplincourt, and Velu wood, whilst the 
2nd Tank Brigade attacked Vaux-Vraucourt. All these 
attacks were successful. 

On the last day of August 1918, probably the most deci- 
sive month in the whole war, nine Mark IV. s of the 12th 
Battalion and four Whippets of the 6th Battalion attacked 
the Longatte trench, Moreuil switch, and Vraucourt trench, 
taking all these objectives, and on the following day, Sep- 
tember 1, Whippets of the 6th Battalion completed the 
above operations by establishing the infantry on the slopes 
east of Vaux-Vraucourt. 

The Second Battle of Arras reached its zenith on Sep- 
tember 2 when the famous Drocourt-Queant line, which we 
had failed to reach in April 1917, was broken. Starting 
from the south the 1st Tank Brigade operated with the 42nd 
and 5th Divisions against Beugny and Villars-au-Flos. To 
the north of this attack the 2nd Tank Brigade assisted in 
the Vlth Corps operations against Moreuil, Lagnicourt, and 
Morchies. This attack was made in conjunction with those 
of the Canadian and XVIIth Corps against the Drocourt- 
Queant line. This line was attacked by the 1st and 4th 
Canadian Divisions and the 4th Division, together with as 
many tanks as the 9th, 11th, and 14th Battalions of the 
3rd Tank Brigade could muster. The assembly of these 
machines was difficult owing not only to the intricate nature 
of the Sensee valley but to the fact that active operations 
were taking place throughout these preparations. 

The Drocourt-Queant line, built in the spring of 1917, was 
protected by immensely strong belts of wire entanglement, 
and it was expected that every effort would be made on the 
part of the enemy to hold these defences at all cost ; never- 


theless, on the whole, less opposition was encountered than 
had been anticipated. Except for anti-tank rifle fire, which 
was especially noticeable at Villers-les-Cagnicourt, the tanks 
met little opposition. It is estimated that in this attack one 
company of tanks alone destroyed over seventy hostile 
machine guns, the German gunners surrendering to the tanks 
as they approached. 

On the next day, the enemy falling back, the Whippet 
tanks pushed forward to Hermies and Dermicourt. Thus the 
Second Battle of Arras ended in an overwhelming success 
by the piercing of the renowned Drocourt-Queant line. A 
blow had now been delivered from which the enemy's moral 
never recovered. 

Since August 21, in all, 511 tanks had been in action, and 
except for one or two minor failures every attack had cul- 
minated in a cheap success — cheap as regards our own in- 
fantry casualties, especially so when it is remembered that 
during the fortnight which comprised the battle of Bapaume 
and the Second Battle of Arras no fewer than 470 guns and 
53,000 prisoners were captured. Thus in a little less than 
one month the German Army had lost to the First, Third, 
and Fourth British Armies 870 guns and 75,000 men with- 
out counting killed and wounded. 



From September 1916 onwards to the conclusion of the war, 
German anti-tank tactics passed through three phases. 
Firstly, the enemy had no anti-tank defence at all, or what 
he devised he based upon a misconception of what the 
tank could accomplish. Secondly, having learnt but little 
about tanks, he considered that only a small expenditure of 
effort and materiel was required to deal with weapons of so 
limited a scope. Thirdly, from August 1918 onwards, he 
took panic and over-estimated their powers ; his efforts at 
anti-tank defence became feverish and he appeared to be 
wiUing to make any and every sacrifice to combat this 
terrible weapon. 

Captured documents clearly show that the introduction 
of tanks was as great a surprise to the German General Stalf 
as to their fighting troops. It is true that certain vague 
rumours had been circulated that the Allies might use some 
new weapon, but, as such rumours have throughout the war 
been current on all sides, no particular importance was 
attached to them. In spite of the fact that tanks were used 
on several occasions between September 15 and November 13, 
1916, and that the enemy held in his possession near Gueude- 
court a captured tank for some fourteen days, he formed a 
most inaccurate idea of it. 

During the winter of 1916 and 1917 instructions were 
issued on anti-tank defence. These were based on the 
following entirely erroneous ideas : 

(i) That tanks were largely dependent on roads. 

(ii) That tanks would approach the German lines in day- 

(iii) That tanks were impervious to machine-gun fire. 



These led to the Germans depending on road obstacles 
such as pits and indirect artillery fire ; as a matter of fact, 
at this time the most potent weapon which could have been 
used against tanks was the machine gun firing A. P. bullets. 
That the Mark I tank was not proof against these bullets 
was not discovered until April 1917, after the British failure 
at Biillecourt. This discovery was of little use, for by the 
time the next battle was fought, Messines, a tank with thicker 
armour, the Mark IV, had replaced the Mark I. 

It is evident that throughout this period the German 
Higher Command gave little thought to the tank question 
and quite failed to appreciate the possibilities of the machine. 
Prisoners were questioned and rough sketches, many gro- 
tesque in the extreme, were obtained from them and published 
for information. What information they imparted was mis- 
leading ; in fact, the whole attitude of the German General 
Staff, during this period, may be summed up as " stupidity 
tempered with ridicule." 

During 1917 the German grew to realise that artillery 
formed the chief defence against tanks. Great prominence 
was given to indirect fire by all types of guns and howitzers, 
and in spite of several dawn attacks the enemy laid great 
tress on what he called "Distant Defence." As actual 
operations proved, indirect artillery fire produced little effect 
save on broken-down machines. Partially learning this, the 
Germans resorted to special anti-tank guns, and on an 
average, two, protected by concrete, were emplaced on each 
divisional front ; these were in certain sectors supplemented 
by captured Belgian and old German guns. Fixed anti- 
tank guns proved, however, of little use, for though a few 
tanks were knocked out by them, notably at Glencorse wood 
on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, they generally 
were destroyed by our terrific initial bombardments. Curi- 
ously enough, though both indirect fire and fixed guns proved 
a failure, little consideration was, at this time, given to the 
simplest form of artillery action against tanks, namely — 
direct fire by field guns. 

Infantry anti-tank defence, during 1917, was negligible 


and chiefly consisted in instructions how to " keep its 
head " and to leave the rest to the artillery ; the use of 
bundles of stick bombs was recommended, and though A.P. 
bullets received no great support, the effect of the splash of 
ordinary S.A.A. was not realised in the least degree. 

Prior to the battle of Cambrai (November 1917) the true 
anti-tank defence had been mud, mud produced by gun fire 
and rain. At this battle the enemy was caught completely 
unawares, his anti-tank defence was slight ; but a feature of 
the operation was the improvised defence put up by a few 
of the enemy's field guns, which inflicted heavy casualties on 
tanks, especially at Flesquieres. In general, however, the 
enemy realised the ineffectiveness of his anti-tank defence, 
yet curiously enough he at present showed no decided 
inchnation to adopt direct field-gun fire as its backbone. 
In spite of the fact that the incident of a German battery, 
served by an officer, putting a considerable number of tanks 
out of action had received mention in the British dispatches, 
still the enemy* remained oblivious to the utility of direct 
fire, and in place of praising his gunners, as we did, he praised 
troops from Posen who had put up a determined resistance 
against tanks in I'ontaine Notre Dame. 

The German counter-attack on November 30, 1917, which 
resulted in the capture of a considerable number of tanks, 
seems to have entirely allayed any anxiety created by the 
attack on the 20th ; for though the question of anti-tank 
defence was given rather more prominence than heretofore, 
no greater practical attention was paid to it during the 
winter of 1917-1918 than during the one previous to it. 

The German offensive in the spring of 1918 put all defen- 
sive questions into the background. This period, however, 
produced a new weapon, the German anti-tank rifle. 

This rifle was first captured during the battle of Hamel on 
July 4. It had only just been issued to certain divisions; 
other divisions were equipped with it later on, 

This weapon was 5 ft. 6 in. in length, it weighed 36 lb. 
and fired single shots, using A. P. ammunition of '530 calibre. 
It was too conspicuous and too slow a weapon to be really 


effective against tanks, though it could easily penetrate 
them at several hxindred yards range. Its chief disadvantage 
was that the German soldier would not use it ; not only 
was he not trained to do so, but he was afraid of its kick, 
and still more afraid of the tanks themselves. It is doubt- 
ful if 1 per cent, of the anti-tank rifles captured in our tank 
attacks had ever been fired at all. 

The French counter-attack between the Aisne and the 
Marne in July, followed by the British victories of Amiens and 
Bapamne in August, struck through the opacity of the German 
General Staff like a bolt from out the blue, with a result 
that a complete volte face was made as regards tanks. The 
instructions now issued gave anti-tank defence the first place 
in every project ; the eyes of General Ludendorff were now 
opened, and, reahsing the seriousness of the tank problem, 
on July 22 he wrote as follows : 

" The utmost attention must be paid to combat tanks — 
our earher successes against tanks lead to a certain con- 
tempt for this weapon of warfare. We must, however, now 
reckon with more dangerous tanks." 

This is a more human document than those subsequently 
issued by the German Chief of the General Staff. Luden- 
dorff now clearly realised that anti-tank defence had been 
neglected ; he probably realised also that this neglect would 
be difficult to explain to the army and the pubUc, which, as 
a result of failures, were about to become far more critical 
of their leaders than ever before. 

It is not clear, however, whether Ludendorff realised a 
still more serious aspect of the tank problem, namely, that 
it was now too late to organise an efficient defence against 
the " more dangerous tanks." Such a defence might have 
been created before these tanks were available in effective 
numbers ; it could not be organised now unless the pressure 
the AUies were now exerting could be reheved. This was 
impossible, for the motive force of this pressure was the tank. 

The steps which the German General Staff now took to 


combat the tank are interesting. Special officers were 
appointed to the staffs of Groups of Armies, Corps, Divisions, 
and Brigades, whose sole duty it was to deal with anti-tank 
defence within these formations. The field gun was at 
length recognised as the most efficient anti-tank weapon 
available. These guns were organised as follows : 

(i) A few forward and silent guns in each divisional sector 
— outpost guns. 

(ii) Sections from batteries in reserve were allotted definite 
sectors. On a tank attack taking place, they would gallop 
forward and engage any tank entering the sector allotted 
to the section. These sections of guns proved the backbone 
of the German anti-tank defence. 

(iii) All batteries (howitzers included) were ordered to 
take up positions from which advancing tanks could be 
engaged by direct fire. The most effective range for this 
purpose was first considered to be over 1,000 yards ; this was 
gradually reduced to about 500. 

Batteries in (i) and (ii) were to be employed for anti-tank 
work only, in (iii) they were available for other work, but 
in the event of a tank attack the engagement of tanks was 
their chief task. 

The duty still allotted to the infantry was " to keep their 
heads " or "to keep calm," actions which at this period 
were impossible to the German Higher Command directly 
tanks were mentioned. Other orders laid down that in the 
event of a tank attack " infantry should move to a flank." 
How this was to be done when tanks were attacking on 
frontages of twenty to thirty miles was not explained. A.P. 
ammunition had to a great extent fallen into discredit, and, 
curious to record, the effect of " splash " as a means of bhnd- 
ing a tank was still hardly realised, and this after two years 
of tank warfare. 

As artificial obstacles had proved of little use from the 
end of July, when the Germans withdrew behind the rivers 
Ancre and Avre, until the signing of the armistice every 
effort was made to use river lines as a defence against tanks. 
Road obstacles and stockades were still in use, but though 


they proved a hindrance to the movement of armoured cars 
they proved none to tanks. 

A great deal of energy and explosive material was ex- 
pended in laying minefields. At first, special mines in the 
form of a shallow box were used ; later on these were re- 
placed by shells. Lack of time, however, prevented the 
enemy from developing sufficiently large minefields to pro- 
duce an important result. 

The idea of combining the various forms of anti-tank 
defence under one command in such a way as to form an 
anti-tank fort had been dealt with on paper, but was only 
in a very few cases put into practice. The idea was a sound 
one, and if well combined with natural obstacles it would 
have formed the best defence against tanks that the enemy 
could have created with the means at his disposal. 

An anti-tank fort was to consist of : » 

Four field guns, 2 flat-trajectory minenwerfer, 4 anti-tank 
rifles, and 2 machine guns firing A. P. ammunition. The fort 
was to be sited several thousand yards behind the outpost 
guns and close to the main line of defence. 

Throughout the last two years of the war occasional 
successes were gained by the Germans by various means of 
anti-tank defence, these usually being due to a combination 
of the following circumstances : 

(i) The use of tanks outside their limitation. 

(ii) A hitch or failure in carrying out the plan of attack. 

(iii) An exceptional display of resource, initiative, and 
courage on the part of some individual German soldier. 

In general the keynote of the German anti-tank defence 
was lack of foresight, the development of tanks not being 
appreciated. Among the very large number of captured 
orders dealing with anti-tank defence there is no recorded 
instance of any anticipation of superior types of tanks to 
those already in use. The German General Staff lacked 
imagination and the faculty of appreciating the value of 
weapons that had not been explained to them whilst at 
school; obsolescence dimmed their foresight. 




On September 4 all Tank Brigades were withdrawn from 
Armies and placed in G.H.Q. reserve to refit and reorganise. 
When this had been completed Tank Brigades were con- 
stituted as follows : 

1st Tank Brigade 

7th BattaUon 

Mark IV. 


Mark V Star. 


Mark IV. 


Mark V Star. 

2nd Tank Brigade 


Mark V. 


Mark V. 

3rd Tank Brigade 


Medium A. 


Medium A. 


Mark V. 


Armoured cars 

4th Tank Brigade 

1st , 

Mark V. 


Mark V. 


Mark V. 

301st American Battalion 

Mark V Star. 

5th Tank Brigade 

2nd Battalion 

Mark V. 


Mark V. 


Mark V. 

At 7 a.m. on September 17, in a heavy storm of rain, the 
Fourth and Third Armies initiated the battle of Epehy by 
attacking on a front of some seventeen miles from Holnon 
to Gouzeaucourt, the First French Army co-operating 
south of Holnon. 

On September 18 the 4th and 5th Tank Brigades were 
released from G.H.Q. reserve and allotted to the Fourth 
Army, the 2nd Tank Battalion having been transferred to 
this Army on September 13. 

On this day the battle of Epehy continued on the front 
Epehy-Villeret, some 7,000 yards long. In this attack 
twenty tanks of the 2nd Battalion assisted the Ilird Corps, 

266 ' 


Australian Corps, and IXth Coi-ps. On the Ilird Corps front 
heavy machine-gun fire was encountered and overcome, 
many machine guns being destroyed. On that of the IXth 
progress was slow, and the Australians, meeting with little 
resistance, captured Ronssoy and Hargicourt. 

After two days' rest the attack was continued on the 
21st, nine tanks of the 2nd Battalion operating on the Ilird 
Corps front against the Knoll and Guillemont farm. Two 
of these machines carried forward infantry, but the machine- 
gun fire was so heavy that it was not possible to drop them. 
During this day the enemy put up a most determined resis- 
tance and there were not sufficient tanks engaged to silence 
his machine guns. Another two days' rest followed, and 
then again was the attack renewed on the IXth Corps front 
against Fresnoy-le-Petit and the Quadrilateral, nineteen 
machines of the 13th Battalion attacking with the 1st and 
6th Divisions. So heavy was the enemy's gas barrage on 
this day that some of the tank crews were forced to wear 
their respirators for over two hours on end. In spite of the 
enemy being in great strength eighteen machines assisted the 
infantry. Thus ended the battle of Epehy and though the 
advance was not great nearly 12,000 prisoners and 100 guns 
were added to the " bag." 

Preparations were now set in hand for an extensive attack 
against the Hindenburg and auxiliary lines of defence, which 
together formed a zone of entrenchments for the most part 
very heavily wired and extending over a depth varying from 
8,000 to 16,000 yards. This attack entailed another hasty 
reorganisation of tank battalions, which was completed by 
September 26, when the battle order of Brigades was as follows : 

1st Tank Brigade 

7th BattaUon 

Mark IV 


H.Q. Bihuoourt 


Mark V Star 



Mark IV 

W. of Ruyaulcourt. 

1st T.S. Coy. 

S. of Velu. 

2nd G.C. Coy. 


2nd Tank Brigade 

10th Battalion 

Mark V Star 

Auchy les Hesdin. 

H.Q. Gomiecourt 


Mark V 

Winnipeg Camp. 


Mark V Star 


2nd T.S. Coy. 


1st G.C. Coy. 

N.W. of Vaux-Vrauoo 


3rd Tank Brigade 

5th Battalion 

Mark V 

E. of Cartigny. 

H.Q. Barleux 


Medium A 

S. of Tincourt. 


Mark V 

S. of Tincourt. 

3rd T.S. Coy. 

S. of Tincourt. 

4th Tank Brigade 

1st Battalion 

Mark V 


H.Q. Templeux- 

4th „ 

Mark V 

S. of Manancourt 


301st American 

Mark V Star 

S. of Manancourt. 


4th T.S. Coy. 

S. of Manancourt 

5th Tank Brigade 

2nd Battalion 

Mark V 


H.Q. Bois-de- 


Medium A 

S. of Roisel. 



Mark V 

S. of Tincourt. 


Mark V 

S. of Tincourt. 


Mark V Star 

S. of Tincourt. 




5th T.S. Coy. 

S. of Tincourt. 

The rapidity with which these changes were made would, 
a few months back, have bewildered both the Tank Corps 
Headquarter Staff and the Brigade and Battalion Comman- 
ders themselves ; now the knack of rapid movement had 
been mastered, and though great energy had to be exerted 
during such reorganisations, they were generally accom- 
plished in time and efficiently. 

On September 27 the great battle began, comprising the 
First, Third, and Fourth Armies on a front of sixteen miles. 
The battlefield was divided into two main sectors, to the 
north that of the First and Third Armies, between the Sensee 
river and Gouzeaucourt, with the object of capturing Bourlon 
hill, and to the south that of the Fourth Army with the 
capture of the Knoll, Guillemont farm, and Quennemont 
farm as its objectives. 

East of the First Army front line ran the canal Du Nord, 
a formidable obstacle to tanks in spite of the fact that it 
was dry, having never been completed. This canal varied from 
36 to 50 ft. wide at the bottom, and was 12 ft. deep, and the 
slopes of its sides were in many places steep. The enemy, 
evidently suspecting that tanks might attempt to cross it, 
had at certain places rendered this temporarily impossible, 
so it was thought, by cutting in its bank a vertical wall 9 ft. 


deep for several hundreds of yards along the eastern side 
between Moeuvres and Inchy. In the Maquion-Bourlon 
sector the enemy had made little anti-tank preparation, 
probably considering that the canal itself formed a sufficient 
obstacle. In the Beaucamp sector, however, anti-tank 
preparatiors were exceptionally thorough, many anti-tank 
rifles being placed in position here. 

Sixteen tanks of the 7th Battalion, all Mark IV. s, some 
of which had fought over very nearly the same ground in 
November 1917, were allotted to co-operate with the Cana- 
dian Corps. In spite of the formidable great ditch which 
lay in front of them, fifteen of these machines crossed the 
canal Du Nord near Moeuvres, and attacked Bourlon 
village and the western edge of Bourlon wood. Of these 
fifteen machines only three were put out of action, one by a 
mine placed in a road leading through a gap in the canal and 
two by a battery near Deligny hill. 

On the Third Army front Corps were disposed from north 
to south as follows : XVIIth, Vlth, IVth, and Vth Corps. 

Twenty-six tanks of the 15th Battalion operated with the 
XVIIth Corps south of Bourlon wood, and with the Vlth 
Corps against Flesqui^res and Premy Chapel. A fine per- 
formance was here carried out in crossing the canal, and 
although more than one attempt had to be made by' several 
of the tanks the 9 ft. wall was successfully surmounted. 
This attack was an overwhelming success in spite of the 
heavy tank casualties, 11 out of the 26 machines operating 
being hit on the extreme objectives. On the IVth Corps 
front 12 machines of the 11th Battalion attacked between 
Gouzeaucourt and Trescault: this operation was, however, 
only partially successful. 

On the front of the Fourth Army the 27th American 
Division, supported by twelve tanks of the 4th Tank Bat- 
talion, carried out a preparatory attack on the Knoll, Guille- 
mont and Quennemont farms, the object being to advance 
the front line so as to be in a better position to attack in 
force on the 29th. The Germans holding this sector of their 
line were reliable and well led troops, and in spite of the fact 


that the tanks and infantry reached their objectives a counter- 
attack drove them back, with the result that up to zero-hour 
on the 29th the actual location of our front line was very 

On September 28 a small local attack, which was com- 
pletely successful, was carried out against Raillencourt and 
St. Olle ; in this six tanks of the 7th Battalion took 

On the following day seven tanks of the 11th Battalion 
co-operated with the Vth Corps in the capture of Gonnelieu 
and Villers Guislain in spite of strong resistance put up by 
the enemy. 

On the Fourth Army front an important battle of con- 
siderable magnitude was fought on the 29th, involving some 
175 tanks. The object of this battle was to, force the Hin- 
denburg Line between Bellenglise and Vendhuile. Along 
this front is situated the St. Quentin canal, and as, between 
Bellicourt and Vendhuile, this canal runs underground 
through a tunnel, it provided the German garrisons of this 
sector of their line with good underground cover. An 
operation on this sector had been the subject of careful 
study by the Tank Corps General Staff both in England and 
France ever since the summer of 1917, as this tunnel and a 
shorter one just north of St. Quentin provide the only 
negotiable approaches for tanks over the canal. It was fully 
realised that the enemy would put up a most determined 
resistance to secure his retention of the tunnel, for should 
it be occupied by us the whole of the Hindenburg defences 
north and south of it would be threatened. 

The attack was to be carried out by four Corps, the IXth 
Corps on the right, the American and Australian Corps in 
the centre, and the Ilird Corps on the left. 

The American Corps was to capture the first objective, 
the strongly entrenched system east of Bony ; the Aus- 
tralian Corps was then to pass through the gap made 
and be followed by the American Corps exploiting north 
and south. The IXth Corps was to clear the west bank of 
the St. Quentin canal under cover of the southern wing of 


the American exploitation force, whilst the Ilird Corps was 
to move forward with the left of the American Corps. 

Tanks were allotted to Corps as follows : 

3rd Tank Brigade, 5th, 6th, and 9th Battalions, to the IXth 

4th Tank Brigade, 1st, 4th, and 301st American Battalion, 
to the Australian Corps. 

5th Tank Brigade, 8th, 13th, and 16th Battalions, in Army 

The 301st American Battalion was attached for opera- 
tions to the 27th American Division. 

A thick mist covered the ground when the tanks moved 
forward at 5.50 a.m. It will be remembered that the situa- 
tion opposite the Knoll and the two farms of Guillemont and 
Quennemont was very obscure. This attack, which was to 
break the well sited and highly organised Hindenburg Line, 
was necessarily a " set piece " attack in which objectives, 
allotment of tanks, etc., had to be carefully worked out 
beforehand. The plan of operations was based on the 
assumption that the line — the Knoll — Guillemont farm — 
Quennemont farm — would form the " jumping off " line. The 
resistance put up by the enemy in this sector was far greater 
than ordinary, with the result that up to the time of the 
attack the above line was still in German hands. This 
meant that the artillery programme would have to be hastily 
changed or left as it was. The latter course was decided 
on so as to obviate confusion, and this necessitated the 
infantry attackers starting at a considerable distance in 
rear of the protective barrage. As events turned out the 
task set the Americans proved too severe, nevertheless with 
great gallantry they pushed forward, some of them actually 
forcing their way through the German defences. The 
majority, however, were mown down by the exceptionally 
heavy machine-gun fire which was brought to bear on them. 
The attack failed. 

Meanwhile the 301st American Tank Battalion met with 
a disaster, for, whilst moving forward from near Ronssoy, 
it ran into an old British minefield west of Guillemont farm 


laid in the previous February ; ten machines were blown up 
and only two succeeded in assisting the infantry. This 
minefield consisted of rows of buried 2 in. trench-mortar 
bombs, each containing 50 lb. of ammonal; the explosions 
were terrific, the whole bottom of many machines being torn 
out ; in nearly all cases the crews of these tanks suffered very 
heavy casualties. 

In the south, tanks of the 4th and 5th Brigades cleared 
Nauroy and Bellicourt and broke through the Hindenburg 
Line. The mist now began to lift, and consequent on the 
failure of the northern attack, the attackers were placed, 
tactically, in a very dangerous situation, for the enemy was 
now able to fire into their backs. Several tanks, which had 
been allotted to later objectives, on realising the seriousness 
of the situation went into action on their own initiative with- 
out either artillery or infantry support. This very gallant 
action undoubtedly saved a great many infantry casualties, 
though the tanks themselves suffered heavy losses. 

On the right the attack of the IXth Corps was a complete 
success ; in the first rush the 46th Division crossed the 
canal, a magnificent performance, and captured Magny and 
Etricourt with 4,000 prisoners. The tanks operating with 
this Corps, being unable to cross with the troops, who waded 
and swam the water in the canal, moved on Bellicourt, a 
difficult operation in the dense fog. From this place they 
swung south, working down the bank of the canal, and arrived 
in time to take part in the capture of Magny. During this 
action the enemy's artillery fire proved very accurate ; 
which was, however, to be expected, for this was the third 
tank assault on the Knoll — Guillemont — Quennemont posi- 
tion; consequently the German gunners had become 
thoroughly drilled in the defence of this sector. 

On the following day eighteen tanks of the 13th Battalion 
worked up the Hindenburg and the Nauroy — Le Catelet lines, 
but on account of some misunderstanding the infantry did 
not follow, consequently the operation did not prove of 
much value. 

On the First Army front six tanks of the 9th Battalion 


operated with the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions against 
Cuvillers, Blecourt, and Tilloy ; they crossed the Douai- 
Cambrai road near Sancourt and greatly helped the infantry 
by overcoming the determined machine-gun resistance which 
was encountered throughout this attack. On the next day 
further tanks of this Battalion assisted the 32nd Division 
in occup5ang the Fonsomme line east of Joncourt. In this 
action smoke clouds were used from tanks to cover their 
approach from the observation of the German gunners ; 
this proved very successful and undoubtedly reduced loss 
by gun fire. One tank had a curious experience : a smoke 
bomb having burst on the top of it, the crew were forced to 
evacuate the machine on account of the fumes being drawn 
inside. The tank commander, having put the fire out, was 
unable to find his crew ; as time was short he got inside the 
tank and continued his advance alone ; on his way forward 
he took on board an ofiicer and two men of the Manchester 
Regiment. The tank then went into action against a 
machine-gun nest ; as the improvised crew was ignorant 
of the Hotchkiss gun each time a jam occurred the tank 
commander had to leave the driver's seat to rectify it. 
Shortly afterwards the truant crew turned up, so the tank 
commander, having first driven his newly-made comrades to 
cover, dropped them, and then proceeded on his way. 

On October 3 an attack was launched against the Seque- 
hart-Bony front in which twenty machines of the 5th Tank 
Brigade proved of very great assistance to the 32nd and 
46th Divisions. Sequehart was cleared and so was Rami- 
court and Doon copse, but Montbrehain remained uncap- 

On the 4th, the 3rd Tank Battalion was transferred from 
the 5th to the 3rd Tank Brigade, and a day later the 16th 
Tank Battalion from the 5th to the 4th Tank Brigade. The 
8th, 9th, and 13th Battahons were withdrawn into G.H.Q. 
reserve. On the 5th the first phase of the battle of Cam- 
brai — St. Quentin opened with a failure to take Beaurevoir 
in which attack six tanks of the 4th Tank Battahon attempted 
to assist the 25th Division. Co-operation in this action was 


indifferent, due chiefly to the fact that the infantry of this 
division had never been trained to work with tanks. This 
failure was partially retrieved by a brilliantly executed 
attack by the Australians supported by twelve tanks of the 
16th Battalion against Montbrehain. This village was held 
by the enemy in strength, and many good targets at close 
quarters were obtained for 6-pounders firing case shot. The 
co-operation throughout was excellent, as, since the battle 
of Hamel, had always been the case when operating with 
the Australian Corps — tank commanders constantly getting 
out of their tanks and talking to the infantry. 

The second phase of the Cambrai — St. Quentin battle 
opened on the morning of October 8 on an eighteen miles 
front — -it was entirely successful. Tanks were allotted as 
follows, eighty-two in all being used : 

Ist Tank Brigade 12th Battalion 1 Company to IVth Corps. 

1 Company to Vlth Corps. 
1 Company to XVIIth Corps. 
11th BattaUon To Vth Corps. 

4th Tank Brigade 1st Battalion To Xlllth Corps. 

301st American Battalion To Ilnd American Corps. 
3rd Tank Brigade 3rd Battalion To Ilnd American Corps. 

6th Battalion To IXth Corps. 

The attacks, carried out by the 12th Tank Battalion on 
the front Niergnies — La Targette, were successful, the in- 
fantry universally testif3ang to the assistance rendered by 
this battalion. An interesting encounter now took place, 
the enemy counter-attacking from the direction of Awoingt 
with four captured British Mark IV tanks, one male and 
three females. The counter-attack was speedily dealt with, 
the renegade male being knocked out by a 6-pounder shell 
fired by one of our own tanks and one female put out of 
action by a shell fired from a captured German field gun 
by a tank section commander ; the remaining two females 
fled on the approach of one of our machines of the same sex. 
So ended the second tank encounter as successfully as the 
first, which it will be remembered was fought near the village 
of Cachy on April 24, 1918. 


The other actions fought on this day were briefly as fol- 
lows : 

One Company of the 11th Battahon assisted the 32nd 
Division against Villers-Outreaux, another company operated 
with the 21st Division and the third company with the 38th. 
This last company was of great assistance, as the infantry 
had been held up by a broad belt of wire which they were 
unable to cross until the tanks crushed down pathways 
through it. 

The 6th Tank Battalion, operating with the Ilnd Ameri- 
can Corps, carried out its programme, one of its machines 
putting three batteries of field guns out of action in Fraicourt 
wood ; and the 3rd Battalion came into action in the neigh- 
bourhood of Serain. This village was very strongly defended, 
the enemy holding it to cover his withdrawal. 

On October 9 the attack continued along the whole front, 
eight tanks of the 4th Battalion coming into action east of 
Fremont and the 17th Armoured Car Battalion, under orders 
of the Cavalry Corps, operating around Maurois and 
Honnechy. Two days later, on the 11th, five tanks of the 
5th Battalion operated with the 6th Division north of 
Riguerval wood ; this was the last tank action fought in 
this battle. 

The battle of Cambrai — St. Quentin was at an end. The 
Hindenburg Line had now to all intents and purposes ceased 
to exist as an obstacle. It had been broken on a front of 
nearly thirty miles, on which frontage a penetration of some 
twenty miles had been effected, and no fewer than 630 guns 
and 48,000 prisoners captured during the last fourteen days. 
The effect of this great battle, coupled with the successes of 
the French in the south and the operations east of Ypres and 
round Courtrai, fought by the British, French, and Belgians 
in the north, resulted in the withdrawal of the German 
forces in the Roubaix, Lille, and Douai area, and with this 
withdrawal the whole of the British forces in France from 
north of Menin to Bohain, seven miles north-west of Guise, 
were faced with field warfare ; open country stretched 
before them, uncut by trench, unhung by wire. The period 


of exploitation had arrived — that period all our endeavours 
had been concentrated on attaining during four years of the 
most desperate and relentless war in history. 

Considering the comparative weakness of the British 
Army, the time of the year, and the nature of the fighting, 
it had truly been a notable performance on the part of the 
English and the Dominion infantry, to have fought their 
way so far. To carry out a rapid pursuit was beyond 
their endeavours, for the German Army, though beaten, was 
not yet broken. For cavalry to do so was unthinkable, for 
the German rearguards possessed many thousands of 
machine guns, and as long as these weapons existed, pursuit, 
as cavalry dream it to be, is utterly impossible. One arm 
alone could have turned the present defeat into a rout — the 
tank, but few of these remained, for since August 8 no fewer 
than 819 machines had been handed over to Salvage by 
the tank battalions, and these battalions themselves had 
lost in personnel 550 officers and 2,557 other ranks, a small 
number indeed when compared with the number of actions the 
Corps had been engaged in, yet a severe loss out of a fighting 
state of some 1,500 officers and 8,000 other ranks. 

Had it been possible at this crisis to put into the field 
two fresh brigades of medium tanks, that is about 300 
machines, the cost of which would be approximately 
£1,500,000, or one-fifth that of one day's cost of the war, 
the greatest war in all history might have closed on or near 
the field of Waterloo in a decisive victory ending in an un- 
conditional surrender or an irretrievable rout. 



On April 2, 1917, the United States of America entered the ■ 
Great War. Up to this date tanks had not aceomphshed 
much. British machines had taken part in the battles of 
the Somme and Ancre, and the first French ones had made 
their appearance on the training ground in October 1916. 

In June 1917, Lieutenant- Colonel H. Parker was detailed 
to inquire into the military value of tanks, and in the follow- 
ing month he forwarded his report on this subject to the 
Operation Section of the Infantry Committee of Colonel 
C. B. Baker's Commission. 

Lieutenant- Colonel Parker's report makes good reading; 
not only is it virile but sound. It was indeed a great pity 
that it was not more completely acted on. The following is 
an extract from it : 

" 1. A hole 30 k. wide -punched through the whole German 
formation deep enough to uncover a line of communication 
to a flank attack. 

" This hole must be wide enough to assure the passage of 
lighter equipment — the divisional machine-gun companies 
can follow the tanks because the tanks will make a road for 

" The wave of machine guns — divisional companies — must 
turn out to right and left, supported by a second line of 
tanks, to widen the breach. 

" The wave of machine guns must be followed by cavalry 
— ' hell for leather ' — ^if the hole is once punched through, 
and this cavalry must strike hnes of communication at all 
hazards. Possibly motor-cycle machine guns may be better 
adapted to this use than cavalry, but I am a believer in 
the cavalry. Support it with Jitney-carried infantry and 
machine guns as quickly as possible. 



" 2. The problem is thai of passing a defile. Nothing 
more. It is like trying to force a mountain pass, where the 
sides are occupied by enemy who can fire down into the pass. 
The ' pass ' is some 30 k. in length, and we must have some- 
thing that can drive through. Then turn to the sides and 
widen the breach. Assail 100 k. to cover assault. 

" It is the old ' flying wedge ' of football, with interference 
coming through the hole in the line. The ' tanks ' take the 
place of the ' line buckers ' who open the hole ; the ' Divi- 
sional Jitney machine guns ' are the ' interference,' the 
' cavalry ' will carry the ball as soon as the hole • is opened, 
i.e. ride through and hit the line of communication. 
" 3. The operation works out this way : 
(a) A cloud of fighting avions at high altitude, to clear 

the air. 
(6) A cloud of observation avions at low altitude, just 
in front of the line of tanks, dropping bombs and 
using machine guns on the trenches. 

(c) Our long-range artillery blocking the German artillery. 

(d) Our lighter artillery barraging the front to prevent 

escape of the Germans in their front lines. 

(e) Our mobile machine guns following up the tanks at 

about 500 yards, covering them with canopy fire, 

step by step. 
(/) Our Divisional Jitney companies of machine guns 

driving in ' hell-bent ' after the tanks and widen- 
ing the breach, 
(g) Our cavalry riding through this breach as soon as 

it is opened for them and swinging out d la Jeb. 

Stuart around McClellan's Army. Sacrificed ? of 

course, but winning results worth the sacrifice. 
(h) Jitney or truck-transported infantry following as 

fast as gasoline can carry it to support the success 

and make our foothold sure. 
(i) Truck- transported — or tank- transported — artillery 

following as fast as possible. 


DO IT AND DO IT NOW as far as preparation goes in material. 
It will take time to get ready." 

Shortly before this report was written, Colonel Rocken- 
bach, the commander designate of the American Tank 


Corps, landed in France and proceeded with General Per- 
shing to Chaumont, the U.S.A. General Headquarters. 

On September 23, 1917, a project for a Tank Corps was 
approved. The Corps was to consist of 5 heavy and 20 
light battahons, together with headquarter units, depots 
and workshops, while in the United States a training centre 
comprising 2 heavy and 5 hght battalions was to be main- 
tained. In May 1918 the establishment of the Corps was 
expanded to 15 brigades, each brigade to consist of 1 heavy 
and 2 light battalions, the former to be armed with the 
Mark VIII and the latter with the Renault tank. 

Meanwhile an immense constructional programme was 
developed for both Mark VIII.s and Renaults, yet, in spite 
of this, by November 11, 1918, one year and seven months 
after America entered the war, only some twenty odd 
American-built Renault tanks had been landed in France. 
The slowness in American construction is very apparent 
when it is remembered that a similar period only elapsed 
between the first sketch drawing of the British Mark I tank, 
in February 1915, and the landing of this machine in France 
in August 1916. 

The lack of machines in the American Tank Corps ren- 
dered the training of its personnel impossible, consequently 
at the beginning of 1918 two training camps were started, 
one at Bovington — the British Tank Training Centre — and 
the other at Bourg in the Haute-Marne, where training was 
carried out under French supervision. The history of the 
units trained at these two centres will be dealt with separ- 
ately as follows : 

By February 1918, 500 volunteers from various branches 
of the American Army were assembled at Bourg for instruc- 
tion. On March 27, 10 Renault machines were taken over 
from the French, another 15 being sent to Bourg in June. 
In August, 144 Renault tanks arrived, and 2 light bat- 
talions were at once mobilised under the command of Colonel 
G. S. Patten and were railed to the St. Mihiel area, where 
they operated with the First American Army, which attacked 
the famous salient on September 12. 


From a tank point of view this attack was a disappointing 
one. From railhead both battalions moved 20 kilometres 
to their positions of assembly, but on the first day of the 
attack, owing to the difficulties of ground in a well-estab- 
lished defence area, they never succeeded in catching up 
with the infantry. These troops moved forward rapidly, 
for it must be remembered that the enemy's resistance was 
very feeble, the salient having already been partially evacu- 
ated by the enemy. Owing to lack of petrol the tanks did 
not participate in the second day's fighting, and on the third 
they appear only on one occasion to have come into contact 
with the enemy and to have collected a number of prisoners. 
The following day these two battalions were withdrawn 
practically intact, only three machines being left behind 
damaged or broken down. 

The American tanks next appear fighting side by side 
with French tank units in the Argonne operations. Pro- 
fiting by their previous experience, although infantry and 
tanks had never met on the training ground, the two Ameri- 
can tank battalions materially assisted their infantry. 

On the first day of the Argonne attack, September 26, it 
had been intended to keep a reserve of tanks in hand for 
the second day's operations, but owing to the infantry being 
held up these went into the attack about noon. 

From this date until October 13 these battalions were 
continually placed at the disposal of the infantry comman- 
ders, but were not often called upon to take an active part 
in operations. Frequently they were moved many miles, to 
the detriment of their tracks and engines and without 
achieving any great result ; they were also used independently 
for reconnaissance work and for unsupported attacks de- 
livered against positions the infantry had failed to capture. 

On October 13 the remains of these two battalions were 
withdrawn and a provisional company was formed which 
accompanied the advance of the American forces until the 
cessation of hostilities on November 11, 1918. 

The 301st U.S.A. Heavy Tank Battalion arrived at Wool 
on April 10, and continued training under British instruction 


until August 24, when it embarked for France. Soon after 
its arrival in this country it was attached to the 1st British 
Tank Brigade. 

On September 29 the 301st American Tank BattaUon took 
part in the important attack carried out by the 27th and 
30th American Divisions against the Hindenburg Line run- 
ning east of the Bellicourt tunnel. The attack started at 
5.50 a.m. in a thick mist, and though the 30th American 
Division reached the Bellicourt tunnel to time, the 27th on 
its left was held up. On the front of the last-named Divi- 
sion only one tank succeeded in crossing the tunnel, the 
others running foul of an old British minefield as described 
in Chapter XXXV. Of the thirty-four tanks which took part 
in this attack only ten rallied. 

On October 8, when the Fourth Army resumed the offen- 
sive, the 301st Battalion was allotted to the Ilnd American 
Corps, which was attacking a position some 3,000 yards 
north-west of Brancourt with the IXth British Corps on its 
right and the Xlllth on its left. This attack was a com- 
plete success ; the 301st Battalion fought right through to 
its final objective, rendering the greatest assistance to the 
infantry, who worked in close co-operation with the tanks. 
One tank in particular did great execution : it advanced, 
firing both its 6-pounders at the railway cutting between 
Beaurevoir and Montbrehain, the ground being littered with 
German dead. 

Nine days later, on the 17th, the attack was continued, 
the 301st Battalion again being attached to the Ilnd Ameri- 
can Corps, the objective of which was a line running west 
of Busigny — eastern edge of La Sabli^re wood (south of 
Busigny) — west of Bohain. In this operation the crossing 
of the river Selle, south of St. Souplet, was a most difficult 
problem, as the river ran through " No Man's Land " ; 
nevertheless, by means of low-flying aeroplanes reconnais- 
sance and night-patrol work was carried out, crossings were 
selected, and on the actual day of the attack no fewer than 
nineteen tanks out of the twenty operating successfully 
crossed the stream. 


The next and last attack carried out by the 301st Bat- 
tahon during the war took place on October 23, when nine 
tanks of this unit assisted the 6th and 1st British Divisions 
in an attack in the neighbourhood of Bazuel, south-east of 
Le Cateau. This operation was part of the Fourth Army's 
attack, the objectives of which were the high ground over- 
looking the canal de la Sambre et Oise, between Catillon, 
and Bois I'Eveque and the villages of Fontaine-au-Bois, 
Robersart, and Bousies. 

All nine tanks moved forward at zero hour behind the 
barrage, and from the report of an observer who saw these 
machines in action it appears that they cleared up the whole 
of the ground as far as the Bazuel-Catillon road. Very 
little opposition was met with, but in spite of this, owing to 
the poor visibility and the enclosed nature of the country, 
the infantry were slow in following the tanks and great 
difficulty was experienced in maintaining touch with them. 
Nevertheless all infantry commanders expressed themselves 
well pleased with the work the tanks had accomplished, 
which had chiefly consisted in reducing strong points and 
breaking paths through the hedges. Of the nine tanks which 
took the field all rallied ; no casualties other than five men, 
slightly gassed, were suffered. The attack on this day was 
altogether a fitting conclusion to the brief but conspicuously 
gallant career of the 301 st American Tank Battalion. 



On October 12, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 15th Battalions 
were withdrawn and placed in G.H.Q. reserve, and on the 
following day the 6th Battalion was transferred to the 4th 
Tank Brigade; meanwhile the retiring enemy endeavoured 
to form a defensive line on the east side of the river Selle. 

On this front, on October 17, the Fourth Army and the 
First French Army attacked from Le Cateau southwards to 
Vaux Andigny on a front of about twelve miles. The 4th 
Tank Brigade was the only brigade in action, and its bat- 
talions were allotted as follows : 

1st Tank Battalion . To the IXth Corps, on the right. 

301st American Battalion. To the Ilnd American Corps, in 

the centre. 
16th Tank Battalion . To the Xlllth Corps, on the 


The 6th Tank Battalion was held in Fourth Army reserve. 

The chief obstacle was the river Selle, the course of which 
roughly approximated to the starting line in " No Man's 
Land," consequently reconnaissance of this obstacle was 
extremely difficult. In spite of this tapes were laid across 
the stream at night time, when it was discovered that the 
river had been dammed in places in order to render the 
crossing of tanks over it more difficult. 

The early morning of the 17th was so foggy that tanks 
had to move forward at zero hour (5.30 a.m.) on compass 
bearings. Each of the forty-eight machines used carried a 
crib, and by casting these into the Selle north of St. Souplet 
and at Molain the 1st and 16th Battalions and the 301st 
American Battalion crossed this river safely. The resistance 



offered by the enemy was not great, the Germans appar- 
ently having considered the flooded river a certain obstacle 
against tanks. 

Three days later the Third Army attacked between Le 
Cateau and the Scheldt canal, four tanks of the 11th Bat- 
talion co-operating with the Vth Corps against Neuvilly and 
Amervalles. Again the chief difficulty was the crossing of the 
Selle : this was successfully effected by means of an under- 
water sleeper bridge constructed by the Royal Engineers at 
night time : being under water the bridge was not visible 
to the enemy during the day. The attack was entirely suc- 
cessful, all four tanks crossing the river and reaching their 

About the middle of October the 2nd Tank Brigade was 
reconstituted, the following battalions being allotted to it : 
6th, 9th, 10th, 14th Battalions, and the 301st American Tank 
Battalion. All these units were short of men and very short 
of machines. 

On October 23, thirty-seven tanks took part in a successful 
moonlight attack at 1.20 a.m. carried out by the Third and 
Fourth Armies north and south of Le Cateau, with the 
object of securing the whole line from the Sambre along the 
edge of the forest of Mormal to the vicinity of Valenciennes. 
In this attack the following battalions took part : 

301st American Tank Battalion, allotted to IXth Corps. 

10th Tank Battalion, allotted to Xlllth Corps. 

11th and 12th Tank Battalions, allotted to Vth Corps. 

In spite of the darkness, mist, and a considerable amount 
of gas shelling, all objectives were reached. Many good 
targets presented themselves, especially for case-shot fire, 
and in all some 3,000 prisoners were captured. In this 
attack tanks were of considerable help in crushing down 
hedges and so opening gaps in them for the infantry to pass 

The attack was continued on the following day, six machines 
of the 10th Battalion co-operating with the 18th and 25th 
Divisions in the neighbourhood of Robersart. Near Renuart 


farm great assistance was rendered to the infantry, and a 
German ammunition dump exploded by a 6-pounder shell 
threw the enemy into great confusion and inflicted many 
casualties on him. 

With this attack the battle of the Selle came to an end 
and with it 475 guns and 20,000 prisoners were added to 
those already captured. 

The battle of Maubeuge opened on November 2 with an 
attack carried out by the IXth Corps west of Landrecies. 
This attack was supported by three tanks of the 10th Bat- 
talion and it was carried out in order to improve our position 
near Happegarbes preliminary to a big attack on the 4th. 
All objectives were taken, but unfortunately lost again 
before nightfall. 

November 4 witnessed the last large tank attack of the 
war, large only in comparison with the number of machines at 
this time fit for action. The attack was on a broad front 
of over thirty miles, extending from the river Oise to north 
of Valenciennes. On the British section of this front thirty- 
seven tanks were used and were allotted as follows : 

Third Army Vlth Corps 1 Company 6th Tank Battalion. 

IVth Corps 2 Sections 14th Tank Battalion. 

Vth Corps 1 Company 9th Tank Battalion. 

Fourth Army Xlllth Corps 5 Sections 14th Tank Battalion. 

2 Companies 9th Tank Battalion. 
2 Sections 14th Tank Battalion. 
17th Armoured Car Battalion. 
IXth Corps 4 Sections 10th Tank Battalion. 

From the above distribution of tanks it will be seen how 
exhausted units had become, sections now taking the place 
of companies and companies of battalions. 

Zero hour varied on the Corps fronts from 5.30 to 6.15 
a.m. Briefly the action of the tanks was as follows : 

Those of the 10th Tank Battahon assisted in the taking 
of Catillon and Happeharbes; the capture of the former 
village was an important step in securing the crossing over 
the Oise canal. Generally speaking the tanks operating 
with the Xlllth Corps had a successful day, especially in 


the neighbourhood of Hecq, Preux, and the north-western 
edge of the forest of Mormal. Although supply tanks ^ are 
not meant for fighting purposes, three, which were carrying 
forward bridging material for the 25th Division, came into 
action near Landrecies. On approaching the canal they 
found that our infantry were still on its western side, hung 
up by machine-gun fire. One tank being knocked out, the 
section commander decided to push on with the other two ; 
this he did, our infantry following these machines as if they 
were fighting tanks, with the result that the machine-gunners 
surrendered and the far bank of the canal was secured. 

The following day, November 5, saw the last tank action 
of the war, eight Whippets of the 6th Tank Battalion taking 
part in an attack of the 3rd Guards Brigade north of the 
forest of Mormal. The country was most difficult for com- 
bined operations, for it was intersected by numerous ditches 
and fences which rendered it ideal for the rearguard opera- 
tions the Germans were now fighting all along their front. 
Either the Whippets had to go forward and so lose touch with 
our infantry or remain with the infantry and lose touch with 
the enemy. In spite of these difficulties all objectives were 
taken, and the last tank action of the war was a success. 

During the next few days refitting continued with a view 
to building up an organised fighting force from the shattered 
remnants of the Tank Corps ; as this was in progress the 
signing of the armistice terms on November 11 brought 
hostilities to an end. 

Ninety-six days of almost continuous battle had now 
taken place since the great tank attack at Amiens was 
launched by the Fourth Army on August 8, since when many 
of the officers and men of the Tank Corps had been in action 
as many as fifteen and sixteen times. During this period no 
fewer than 1,993 tanks and tank armoured cars had been 
engaged on thirty-nine days in all ; 887 machines had been 
handed over to Salvage, 313 of these being sent to the Central 
Workshops, and 204 having been repaired and reissued to 
battahons. Of the above 887 tanks, only fifteen had been 
1 A supply tank is armed with one Lewis gun. 


struck off the strength as unsalvable. Casualties against 
establishment had been heavy : 598 officers and 2,826 other 
ranks being counted amongst killed, wounded, missing, and 
prisoners ; but when it is considered that the total strength 
of the Tank Corps on August 7 was considerably under 
that of an infantry division, and that in the old days of the 
artillery battles, such as the First Battle of the Somme, an 
infantry division frequently sustained 4,000 casualties in 
twelve hours fighting, the tank casualties were extraordinarily 
light. It was no longer a matter of twelve hours' but of 
thirty-nine days' fighting at twelve hours a day. From this 
we may deduce our final and outstanding lesson from all these 
battles, namely, that iron mechanically moved is an econo- 
miser of blood, that the tank is an economiser of hfe — the 
lives of men, men being the most valuable asset any country 
can possess. 

The determination of Sir Douglas Haig had at length 
been rewarded, and the endeavours which failed at Passchen- 
daele won through finally and irrevocably at Maubeuge. A 
fitting conclusion to all these operations is to be found in 
the last dispatch of the Commander-in-Chief of the British 
Armies, which hands down to posterity a just judgment on 
the value of the work carried out by the British Tank Corps 
during the ever-memorable months of August to November 
1918. In these dispatches are to be found the following 
three paragraphs, which are worth pondering over when the 
time comes for us to consider the future : 

" In the decisive contests of this period, the strongest and 
most vital parts of the enemy's front were attacked by the 
British, his lateral commimications were cut and his best 
divisions fought to a standstill. On the different battle 
fronts 187,000 prisoners and 2,850 guns were captured by us, 
bringing the total of our prisoners for the present year to 
over 201,000. Immense numbers of machine guns and 
trench mortars were taken also, the figures of those actually 
counted exceeding 29,000 machine guns and some 3,000 
trench mortars. These results were achieved by 59 fight- 
ing British divisions, which in the course of three months of 
battle engaged and defeated 99 separate divisions." 


" Since the opening of our offensive on August 8, tanks 
have been employed on every battlefield, and the importance 
of the part played by them in breaking up the resistance of 
the German infantry can scarcely be exaggerated. The 
whole scheme of the attack of August 8 was dependent 
upon tanks, and ever since that date on numberless occa- 
sions the success of our infantry has been powerfully assisted 
or confirmed by their timely arrival. So great has been the 
effect produced upon the German infantry by the appear- 
ance of British tanks that in more than one instance, when 
for various reasons real tanks were not available in sufficient 
numbers, valuable results have been obtained by the use of 
dummy tanks painted on frames of wood and canvas. 

" It is no disparagement of the courage of our infantry, 
or of the skill and devotion of our artillery, to say that the 
achievements of those essential arms would have fallen 
short of the full measure of success achieved by our armies 
had it not been for the very gallant and devoted work of the 
Tank Corps, under the comnaand of Major-General H. J. 


THE 17th tank armoured car battalion 

In March 1918 the 17th Tank Battahon was in process of 
formation at the Tank Training Centre at Wool, when the 
German spring offensive resulted in so great a demand being 
made on the home resources that it was converted into an 
Armoured Car Battalion on April 23. On the following day 
the drivers were selected, and sixteen armoured cars, which 
were earmarked for the eastern theatre of war, were handed 
over to it, the Vickers machine gims being replaced by 
Hotchkiss ones. 

On April 28 the cars were embarked at Portsmouth, and 
on the 29th the personnel, under the command of Lieutenant- 
Colonel E. J. Carter, left Folkestone for Boulogne. Thus in 
six days the whole battalion was formed, equipped, and 
landed in France. 

Immediately on landing the 17th Battalion was attached 
to the Second Army and ordered to proceed to Poperinghe, 
but the tactical situation improving these orders were can- 
celled and it was first sent to the Tank Gunnery School at 
Merhmont for instruction, and later on to the Tank Depot 
at Mers. 

After some ten days' training the 17th Battalion joined 
the Fourth Army and went into the line at La Hussoye, being 
attached to the Australian Corps. A few days later the 
battalion was transferred to the XXIInd Corps, which was 
then resting in G.H.Q. reserve, immediately behind the right 
flank of the British Army, and battalion headquarters were 
established at Pissy. Here training continued until June 10, 
when at 9.30 a.m. instructions were received by Lieutenant- 
Colonel Carter to report to the headquarters of the First 
French Army at Conty. 



At Conty orders were issued for the battalion to proceed 
to Ravenel near St. Just. The battahon was notified of 
this by telephone, and, although the night was very dark 
and wet and the roads crowded with traffic, it reached Ravenel 
by 5 a.m. on June 11, after a sixty-mile journey, and went 
into action with the Tenth French Army in its counter-attack 
at Belloy on that day. In this battle two sections of 
armoured cars engaged the enemy with machine-gun fire, 
but the quantity of debris scattered on the roads, and the 
fragile nature of the chassis of the cars, prevented their being 
freely used. On the conclusion of these operations the 
battalion returned to the XXlInd Corps. 

On July 18 the 17th Battalion was ordered to join General 
Fayolle's Army, but did not come into action on account of 
delays on the road due to congested traffic. Ten days later 
it was attached to the 6th French Cavalry Division, which 
was operating north of Chateau-Thierry following the retreat- 
ing enemy towards the river Ourcq. On this river the Ger- 
mans took up a defensive position, covering its approaches 
by machine-gun fire ; this brought the French cavalry to a 
halt, but not the armoured cars, which were able, on account 
of their armour, to approach quite close to the bridges and 
open fire on the enemy's machine-gunners. At Fere-en- 
Tardenois the battalion greatly aided the French by moving 
through the main streets of the village, which was held by 
Germans. Similar assistance was rendered to the Americans 
at Roncheres. 

When the 6th French Cavalry Division was withdrawn to 
rest the 17th Battalion proceeded to Senhs, and at 9 a.m., 
having just entered this town, it received orders to proceed 
forthwith to Amiens, and report to the headquarters of the 
Austrahan Corps. Amiens, which was nearly 100 miles dis- 
tant, was reached the same night. 

On arriving at Amiens Lieutenant- Colonel Carter was in- 
formed that his unit was to take part in the projected p,ttack 
east of this town. The chief difficulty foreseen in an armoured- 
car action in this neighbourhood was the crossing of the 
trenches. Although only one day was available wherein 


to find a solution to this difficulty, it was accomplished by 
attaching a small force of tanks to the battalion. These 
tanks were used to tow the armoured cars over the obstacles, 
or rather, along the tracks the tanks formed through them. 
This solution proved eminently successful. 

For the Fourth Army operations the 17th Armoured Car 
BattaKon was placed under the orders of the 5th Tank 
Brigade. On the morning of August 8 the battahon moved 
forward with its accompanying tanks, which successfully 
assisted all its cars over " No Man's Land." Beyond War- 
fusee, several large trees, felled by shell fire, had fallen across 
the road, entirely blocking it ; these were speedily removed 
by the towing tanks, thus clearing the road not only for the 
armoured cars but for our guns and transport. After this 
delay the cars moved rapidly forward and passed through 
our attacking lines about twenty minutes before the infantry 
were timed to reach their final objective. To accomplish 
this the cars had to run through our own artillery barrage ; 
this they did without casualty. 

The road was now clear and the cars proceeded through 
the enemy's lines, scattering any infantry they found on the 
road. They made for the valley near Foucaucourt, where 
the headquarter troops of a German Corps were known to be 
encamped. These troops were completely surprised and 
many casualties were inflicted on them by six cars moving 
through the valley. The confusion caused soon developed 
into a panic, the enemy scattering in all directions, spreading 
the alarm. 

Whilst this surprise was developing, several sections of 
armoured cars turned south and north off the Amiens-Brie 
road. The former met large columns of transport and 
mounted officers and teams of horses apparently belonging 
to the German headquarters at Framerville. These were 
fired on at short range, four officers being shot down by a 
single burst of fire. Shortly after this the German head- 
quarters were reached, and the Australian Corps flag, which 
had been carried in one of the cars for the purpose, was run 
up over the house which, until a few minutes before, had 


been occupied by the German Corps Commander. At about 
this time one car came in sight of a German train : the engine 
was fired at and put out of action ; later on the cavalry 
arriving captured it. 

The cars which had turned northwards entered Proyart 
and Chuignolles, two moving up to the river Somme. At 
Proyart the cars found the German troops at dinner ; these 
they shot down and scattered in all directions, and then, 
moving westwards, met masses of the enemy driven from 
their trenches by the Australians. In order to surprise these 
men, who were moving eastwards, the cars hid in the out- 
skirts of Proyart, and, when the enemy was between fifty 
and one hundred yards distant, they rapidly moved forward, 
shooting down great numbers. Scattering from before the 
cars at Proyart the enemy made across country towards 
Chuignolles, only to be met by the cars which had proceeded 
to this village, and were once again fired on and dispersed. 
Near Chuignolles one armoured car obtained " running prac- 
tice " with its machine guns at a lorry full of troops, and 
kept up fire until the lorry ran into the ditch. There were 
also several cases of armoured cars following German trans- 
port vehicles, without anything unusual being suspected, 
until fire was opened at point-blank range. 

Although more than half the cars were out of action by 
the evening of the 8th there were no casualties amongst their 
personnel sufficiently serious to require evacuation. 

After repairing the damages sustained on August 8, the 
17th Battalion was transferred to the First Army, and on 
August 21 took part in the operations near Bucquoy. At 
the entrance of the village a large crater had been blown in 
the road, over which the cars were hauled after a smooth 
path had been beaten down across it by a Whippet tank. 
The cars then made their way through the enemy's lines and 
reached Achiet-le-Petit ahead of our infantry, where several 
machine guns were silenced by them. In this action two of 
the cars received direct hits, one of them being burnt out 
and destroyed. 

On August 24 the battalion operated with the New Zea- 


land Division in the attack on Bapaume, the cars penetrat- 
ing to the Arras-Bapaume road, where severe fighting took 

In the attack of September 2, the 17th Battalion operated 
with the Canadian Corps in the assault on the Drocourt- 
Queant line. In this action four cars were hit by shell fire, 
but two squadrons of aeroplanes co-operating with the cars 
attacked the German battery so vigorously that the crews 
of the disabled cars were able to escape being captured. 

On September 29 the armoured cars operated with the 
Australian Corps and the Ilnd American Corps in the attack 
on the Hindenburg Line near Bony ; here numerous casual- 
ties were inflicted on the enemy and four cars were put out 
of action by being burnt. This position was captured by 
the Australians on the following day. 

On October 8 the armoured cars were attached to the 
Cavalry Corps, which was operating from Beaurevoir 
towards Le Cateau. On this day the cars kept touch with 
the cavalry, but on the following morning they moved for- 
ward through Maretz. About two miles beyond this village 
a section co-operated with South African infantry and drove 
the German machine-gunners from a strong position they 
were holding. The cars were able to run right through the 
hostile machine-gun fire, and by enfilading the enemy's 
position killed the German machine-gunners and captured 
ten machine guns and two trench mortars. 

A section of cars made a dash to cross the railway bridge 
on the Maretz-Honnechy road, but the enemy's demolition 
party saw them coming and, lighting the fuse, fled. The 
leading car, however, got across safely, the charge exploding 
and blowing up the bridge immediately this car had crossed 
and thereby cutting it off from the second car, which was 
some fifty yards behind. The leading car then went through 
Maurois and Honnechy, all guns firing ; both of these villages 
were crowded with troops. Near Honnechy church the car 
ran into a by-road by mistake ; at the same moment a 
group of Germans came out of a house and the car accounted 
for five of them in the diaorway. This incident was de- 


scribed with enthusiasm by a French woman, the owner of 
the house, to Lieutenant-Colonel Carter on the following 
day. After passing Honnechy the car was run towards a 
bridge which was known to exist. Profiting by his pre- 
vious experience the commander of the car determined to 
save the bridge from demolition and so not only effect his 
retreat but secure it to the British Army. To accomplish 
this the car rapidly moved round a corner of the road leading 
to the bridge, with its guns pointing in the direction where 
the demolition party would probably be. This action proved 
successful, the demolition party being scattered by a burst 
of bullets before the charge could be fired. The bridge was 
thus saved and proved of great importance to the British 
forces later on. The car then crossed the river and pro- 
ceeded to the spot where the second car had been unable to 
cross, picking it up ; both cars returned to report their 
action, one at least having accomplished a very daring and 
useful journey. 

On November 4 the armoured cars were attached to the 
XVIIIth Corps and were detailed to operate with the 18th 
and 50th Divisions in the forest of Mormal. In this district 
the roads are narrow and at this time of the year were very 
slippery ; armoured-car action was therefore most difficult. 
On the next day the cars of the 17th Battalion, now much 
reduced in numbers, were operating with no fewer than five 
divisions simultaneously. On the 9th all cars were concen- 
trated and attached to the Fourth Army advanced guard to 
assist in the pursuit of the retiring enemy. In the action 
which followed the cars were cut off from the advanced 
guard by all the river bridges being destroyed, but in spite of 
this they were able to continue advancing on a line parallel 
to the pursuit. At Ramousies and Liessies three complete 
trains of ammunition were passed and numbers of heavy 
guns, lorries and artillery transport, the enemy being in 
full flight and in a high state of demoralisation. 

On November 11 the armoured cars were reconnoitring 
towards Eppe-Sauvage and Moustier (twelve miles east of 
Avegnes), near the Belgian frontier, some seven or eight 


miles in advance of the nearest British troops, when at 10.30 
a.m. an officer from the 33rd French Division informed the 
officer in command that he had heard rumours of an armis- 
tice ; a few minutes later a dispatch-rider corroborated this 
information, stating that hostilities were to cease at 11 a.m. 
Firing went on until about three minutes to eleven, when it 
ceased, breaking out in a final crash at eleven o'clock — then 
all was silence ; a silence almost uncanny to the men of the 
17th Tank Armoured Car Battalion, who had not been out 
of gunshot since July 17, the date upon which the battalion 
opened its eventful history with the French Army on the 

Dramatic as had been the short and brilliant career of the 
17th Armoured Car Battalion, its work was not yet ended. 
On November 13 it assembled at Avesnes, and joining the 
cavalry of the Fourth Army moved forward towards the 
Rhine. On the 26th four sections of cars were ordered to 
Charleroi to deal with a reported disturbance. In this town 
they were received with the greatest enthusiasm by the 
inhabitants, and at Courcelles were surrounded by excited 
townsfolk who, having collected all available brass instru- 
ments, crowded round the cars playing the British National 
Anthem at a range of about five yards. 

From Charleroi, the 17th Battalion joined the Second 
Army, moving on Cologne, and were attached to the 1st 
Cavalry Division. On December 1 the German frontier 
was crossed at Malmedy, whence the battalion was immedi- 
ately sent on with the 2nd Cavalry Brigade to deal with dis- 
turbances which had broken out in Cologne. Five days 
later, on the 6th, the cavalry halted outside the town, and 
the G.O.C. 2nd Cavalry Brigade, escorted by cars of the 
17th Battalion, proceeded to the Rathaus to discuss the 
administration of the town with the burgomaster. Cologne 
was entered at midday, the crews of the armoured cars being 
the first British troops to enter. That afternoon the western 
end of the Rhine bridge was occupied, and the colours of 
the Tank Corps run up to flutter over the famous river. 
The record of this battalion is a truly remarkable one. It 


was formed, equipped, and landed in France in the short 
space of six days. In six months it fought in ten separate 
battles with English, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, 
South African, French, and American troops, and was three 
times mentioned in German dispatches. Every car was 
hit and some of them many times, and yet the total losses 
in killed in action throughout this period was only one officer 
and four other ranks. At the cost of these five men and 
seven cars totally destroyed, this battalion must have in- 
flicted scores if not hundreds of casualties on the enemy. 
That the British Army was not equipped with many more of 
these units will be a problem which will doubtless perplex 
the minds of future military historians. 



Like all other human energies, war may be reduced to a 
science, and had this, throughout history, been better under- 
stood, how many countless thousands of lives and millions 
of money might not have been saved, and how much sorrow 
and waste might not have been prevented ! 

Science is but another name for knowledge — knowledge 
co-ordinated, arranged and systematised — from which art, 
or the application of knowledge to existing and ever-changing 
conditions, is derived and built up on unchanging principles. 

The fundamental difficulty in the art of war is in the 
application of its theories in order to test their values. Like 
surgery and medicine, it demands its patients or victims as 
its training-ground, and without these it is most difficult 
to arrive at expert judgments and conclusions. It is an art 
which is neither directly commercial, materially remunera- 
tive, nor normally applicable, consequently it has generally 
been looked upon as a necessary evil, an insurance against 
disaster rather than the application of a science which should 
have as its main object the prevention of the calamity 
of war. 

As an applied science, war is half human, half mechanical ; 
it is, therefore, pre-eminently a live or dynamic science, a 
science which must grow with human understanding itself, 
so that its means of action, materialised in the soldier, may 
not only keep level with progress but absorb it to its own 
particular ends. When we look back on the history of war, 
what do we see ? A school of pedants fumbling with the 
past, hoodwinked against the future, seeking panaceas in 
past victories, the circumstances under which these were 
won being blindly accepted as recurring decimals. Thus do 

21 297 


they lumber their minds with obsolete detail, formulae and 
shibboleths, precepts and rituals which are as much out of 
place on the modern battlefield as phlogiston or the philo- 
sopher's stone would be in a present-day laboratory. 

Time and again has it been asserted that war itself is the 
sole test of a soldier's worth and that on the battlefield alone 
will the great be sifted from the little. 

And why ? Because, until to-day, we have never emerged 
from what may be called the " alchemical " epoch of war- 
fare, the compounding of illusions without knowledge, the 
application of actions without understanding ; we have 
not reduced war to a science founded on definite principles 
nor learnt that 99 per cent, of victory depends on weapons, 
machinery placed in the hands of man so tlnat he may kill 
without being injured. 

Galen was a great physician and so was Paracelsus, but 
who to-day would apply their methods when they can 
employ those of Pasteur and Lister ? Where we have been 
so wrong and will continue to remain so wrong, unless we 
radically change our peace methods of warfare, is that we 
possess no process of producing great peace soldiers — scien- 
tists for war. We do not realise that an army is formed to 
prevent war, that it is composed of human points, that the 
good player will not lose many of these points, and that 
the bad player will go bankrupt. That the loss or gain 
depends on superiority of brains and of weapons and not 
necessarily superiority of rank and numbers of men. When 
we do realise this, then shall we cast the ancient balsams, 
solvents, and coagulants to the winds and set about develop- 
ing the mental and mechanical sides of war in days of peace, 
so that, should wars become inevitable, we may win them 
with the minimum of human loss. 

Soldiers have laughed at Joly de Maizeroy, Massenbach, 
and Maurice de Saxe for suggesting " victory without fight- 
ing," " wars without battles " ; but seldom are their eyes 
dimmed with a tear when they read of a victory which cost 
thousands of lives, and a victory which might have been 
won at the cost of a few hundreds. Yet surely is the saving 

1870 TACTICS 299 

of men's lives and limbs as great an attribute of good leader- 
ship as the taking of those of the enemy ; is it not in fact 
endurance, or the staying power in human lives, which is 
the backbone of victory itself ? 

In August 1914 the Great War opened to all intents and 
purposes as an exaggerated 1870 operation. The doctrine 
of the contending armies was 1870, its leaders were saturated 
with 1870 ideas, its weapons were improved 1870, it was 
1870 in complexion, in tone, in manner, in thought, in tactics, 
and in movement. If this be doubted read the text-books 
prior to the war and compare them with those of 1872 and then 
with the events of the war itself. Take any great army of 
1918 and place it over the same army of 1914 : the sides do 
not coincide. What is the one great difference ? Mechanical 
progress in weapons, not numbers of men, for men potentially 
had in numbers decreased ; yet any 1918 equipped army 
would have beaten a 1914 one because of guns, heavy guns, 
super-heavy guns, mortars, shells, bombs, grenades, gas, 
machine giuis, machine rifles, automatic rifles, range-spotters, 
sound-detectors, smoke, aeroplanes, lorries, railways, tram- 
ways, armoured cars, and tanks. 

What to-day would be thought of a mechanical engineer 
who applied 1870 methods ? Nothing ; he would go bank- 
rupt in six weeks if he started business on 1870 lines. This 
is exactly what the armies of 1914 did; they tactically went 
bankrupt because they were sufficiently big, or the area of 
operations was sufficiently small, to deny to them strategical 
movement. Could this have been foreseen ? Given the 
numbers, given the weapons, and given the area of operations, 
a simple rule-of-three sum can be worked out, the answer to 
which is siege warfare and the tactics of which is the frontal 
attack of penetration ; ^ yet every Field Service Regula- 
tions, in 1914, favoured envelopment and paid but a pass- 
ing attention to trench warfare. 

Inevitably the preordained tactics of penetration were 

' See " The Tactics of Penetration," by Captain J. F. C. FvJler, Journal 
of the Boyal United Services Institution, Novemhei 1914. This article was 
written in April 1914. 


forced on the contending parties, and human points were 
thrown over the parapets in handfuls ; as if men, armed 
with a rifle and bayonet, who could only secure their existence 
by remaining underground, had any chance whatever of 
attaining a decisive victory by forsaking their shelters and 
facing weapons in the open which had previously forced 
them to earth. What was the result ? The Germans failed 
at Ypres and Verdun; the French in the Champagne, at 
Verdun, and at Reims ; and we at Neuve Chapelle, Loos, the 
Somme, Arras, and Passchendaele. Between 2,000,000 and 
3,000,00ft casualties on one side of the balance sheet and a 
few square miles of uninhabitable ground on the other was 
the sum-total of these united endeavours, and all because 
no single army had, since 1870, realised the mechanical side 
of the science of war. In October, ten weeks after the war 
had opened, as the second chapter of this book has already 
related, the mechanical side was realised and a solution was 
found in the production of a chariot not so very dissimilar 
to that depicted on the " Victory Stele of Eannatum " 
of Lagash, 3,000 years B.C. — no very novel mechanical 
invention ! 

Time, a few months, was, however, requisite for the sub- 
stitution of the petrol engine for the horses of the Assyrians, 
and as time could not be wasted other mechanical lapses 
were made good which might have well been foreseen had 
penetration and not envelopment been diagnosed as the 
leading tactical act of the war. 

At first each contending nation in turn passed through 
its barbed-wire crisis, its gun shortage and its ammunition 
scandal. Millions of miles of wire were produced, thousands 
of guns were made, and ammunition was manufactured not 
by thousands of rounds, but by hundreds of thousands of 
tons. Had any one side been able to fire at the other, in 
September 1914, 100,000 tons in a couple of days, that 
side would have, probably, won the war. This is practically 
what happened at the Dunajec in 1915 — the Russians were 
out-weaponed and consequently defeated. 

On the Western Front, as the artillery competition was 


more or less mutual, stagnation became still more complete. 
In place of hurling men against uncut wire, shells were hurled 
instead, the bombardments being sufficiently long to enable 
the Germans to transport troops from the east of Poland to 
France in time to meet the assault. As the frontage of this 
assault was usually under ten miles, the total battle-front 
being over 500, the operation may be compared with that of 
attempting to take the life of a rhinoceros with a hat-pin. 
These tactics inevitably failed, not only through the impos- 
sibility of economically wearing away the enemy's reserves, 
but on account of the impossibility of rapidly moving forward 
our own ; for in the act of destroying wire, simultaneously 
did the guns create an area so difficult to move over that, 
had it been possible to advance the infantry, it would never 
have been possible to feed or supply them. 

That stationary warfare should have increased in endur- 
ance as the gun-power of each side was multiplied was not 
necessary ; this was clearly proved during the first two Ger- 
man battles of 1918. By this date, on all sides, had artillery 
attained its zenith, but the Germans, by threatening a front 
of nearly 250 miles — practically from the Channel to the 
Meuse — and then, after an intense bombardment lasting but a 
few hours, attacking on a comparatively wide front of some 
fifty miles, were able to develop their machine power to its 
fullest effect, that is to say, with the least opposition. 

It took nearly three years from the date of the battle of the 
Dunajec before the use of the gun as a weapon of surprise 
was grasped ; this will probably prove one of the most 
astounding tactical anomalies of the war. During this 
period two other weapons were devised which were destined 
in most respects to outclass the gun ; the idea of both must 
have arisen at approximately the same time. 

For years before the war the French and ourselves had 
been the leading mechanical engineers of Europe ; in a 
similar respect the Germans were its leading chemists. 
Both, once a deadlock had arisen in the war, sought aid from 
the sciences they best understood during peacetime, and 
from which, had they understood war as a science, they 


would have looked for assistance years before its present 

The first stroke of genius delivered in the war was the use 
the Germans made of gas on April 22, 1915, and the second 
the use we made of tanks on September 15, 1916 ; both 
failed through want of a scientific grasp of war. They were 
tentative attacks, not delivered in strength or mass, yet 
curious to relate both were delivered by armies which, 
having been brought up in the 1870 school of thought, were 
fully conversant with the old precept of " superiority of 
numbers at the decisive point " ; but, thinking in muscular 
terms only, they failed to apply it to the mechanical and 
chemical contrivances now placed at their disposal. 

By many soldiers even to-day it is not realised that gas 

is a missile weapon following directly along the evolutionary 

path of all projectiles. A solid shot has to hit a target in 

order to injure it ; as targets became difiicult to see it became 

necessary to increase the radius of effect of the solid shot 

by replacing it by a hollow one filled with explosive. By 

means of this shell, a target might be missed by the shell 

yet hit by a flying fragment ; the danger zone of the solid 

shot was increased many hundreds of times. Once targets 

not only become invisible but disappear into under-earth 

shelters, the shell has but little effect unless days are spent 

in bombardment, consequently the most effective manner 

of hitting them is to replace the shell by a gas inundation 

which will cover extensive areas and percolate into trenches 

and shelters. Gas has, in fact, multiplied the explosive 

radius of action of a shell indefinitely, and had it been used 

in quantity by the Germans before the Allies could protect 

themselves against it, the enemy might well have won 

the war. 

Gas, whatever its possibilities were before this protection 
was obtained, remains but a projectile evolved as above de- 
scribed. Tanks were a " creation," and the introduction of 
the petrol-driven cross-country tractor on the battlefield, 
it is thought, will mark a definite close to the " alchemical " 
epoch of warfare. All war on land, in the past, has been 


based on muscular energy ; henceforth it will be based on 
mechanical. The change is radical, and Wilson's " Big 
Willie " will one day pass into legend alongside Stevenson's 
" Rocket." As steam, applied as a motive force, in 150 years 
changed the world more than it had previously been changed 
since the days of palaeolithic man, so, before the present 
century has run its course, may as great a change take place 
in the realms of war. The cause of both is the same : as the 
invention of the steam engine rendered obsolete to a high 
degree the hand-tool and replaced it by the machine-tool, 
so the apphcation of petrol to the battlefield will force the 
hand-weapon out of existence and replace it by the machine- 
weapon. That the tank will continue in its present form is 
as unlikely as it would have been to expect, in 1769, that 
Watt's pumping engine was the " Ultima Thule " of all such 
engines. It is not the form which is the stroke of true 
genius, but the idea, the replacing of muscular energy by 
mechanical force as the motive power of an army. 

Had the combatant nations- of the Great War possessed 
more foresight, had they thought of war as a science in 
place of as an insurance policy, they could have had a steam- 
driven tank thirty years ago and a petrol-driven one im- 
mediately after the South African War. The Batter tractor 
existed, anyhow in design, in 1888, and during the South 
African War Mr. W. Ralston drew a comic picture entitled 
" Warfare of the Future : The Tractor Mounted Infantry 
in Action," to say nothing about the story by Mr. H. G. 
Wells. But no, the breath of ancient battles had to be 
breathed, and whilst military students were studying Jena, 
Inkerman, and Worth, the commercial sciences were daily 
producing one invention after another which a little adjust- 
ment would help win the next war more speedily than the 
study of scores of Jominis and Clausewitzs. 

To show how unscientific the soldiers of the 1870-1914 
epoch had become it is only necessary to quote that after 
the battle of the Somme in the highest German military 
circles the machine was considered as a veritable joke. 
Apparently it could not be seen that, though the Mark I 


tank was far from perfect, it, being able to reintroduce 
armour and to provide the soldier with a mobile weapon plat- 
form, revolutionised the entire theory of 1870 warfare. 

On July 1, 1916, the opening day of the battle of the 
Somme, the British Army sustained between 40,000 and 
50,000 casualties. On September 25, one single tank forced 
the surrender of 370 Germans at a cost of five casualties to 
ourselves, yet in July 1917 the Mark IV tank was still 
considered but as a minor factor. Its design was not suffi- 
ciently rehable, its true powers were more or less a matter 
of conjecture ; the troops were not fully accustomed to it, 
nor would they place sufficient faith in it to accept it in Heu 
of artillery support, in fact, in its present state of develop- 
ment the tank was but an adjunct to infantry and guns. 
Such were some of the views held regarding it when, like a 
bolt from the blue, the battle of Cambrai shot across the 
horizon of 1870 battles. 

At Cambrai it was the Mark IV tank which was used, the 
same which had existed in July ; the Tank Corps had not 
increased materially in size ; the infantry were for the most 
part used-u^ troops — some had received a few days' training 
with tanks, others had never even seen these machines. The 
assault was an overwhelming success : at the cost of some 
5,000 infantry casualties an advance was made in twelve 
hours which in extent took ninety days at Ypres, and which 
in this last-named battle cost over a quarter of a miUion 
men. Yet, in spite of this astonishing success, so conserva- 
tive had the Army grown to the true needs of victory that 
there were certain soldiers who now stated that the tactics 
employed at Cambrai could never be repeated again and 
that the day of the tank had come and gone. 

Then came the " crowning mercy " — the attack on Hamel. 
Something had to be done to reinstate the credit of the 
Tank Corps. There were but three suitable locahties to do 
it in : the first, against the Merville sahent — the ground 
here was bad, being intersected by dikes and canals ; the 
second, eastward from between Arras and Hebuterne — the 


ground here was much cut up, and the tactical objective 
was not suitable ; the third, eastwards from Villers-Breton- 
neux — the ground here was excellent, but the Australians, who 
held this sector, had little confidence in the tank. 

Human prejudice is, however, not difficult to overcome 
to the student of psychology. After tactful persuasion the 
Australian Corps was induced to accept sixty machines, as 
an " adjunct " to their operations. The tanks (Mark V.s) 
were drawn up 1,000 yards in rear of the attackers, yet, 
nevertheless, within a few minutes of the attack being 
launched, they caught up with the leading wave and carried 
this wave and those in rear right through to the final objec- 
tive. The loss of the 4th Australian Division was insignifi- 
cant ; their prejudices vanished and a close comradeship 
between them and the Tank Corps was established which 
redounds to their gallantry and common sense. 

Hamel, minor incident though it was, was of more im- 
portance to the immediate problems of the British Army 
than Cambrai itself. General Rawlinson, commanding the 
Fourth Army, saw his opportunity, and the result was that 
from Hamel onwards the war became a tank war. The 
machine had made good in spite of prejudice and opposition. 
The Germans lost their heads, and with their heads they lost 
the war. That the war might have been won without tanks 
is quite possible, but that fifty-nine British divisions would, 
without their assistance, have beaten ninety-nine German 
ones in three months is extremely unlikely. 

What had the influence of the tank really been ? Let us 
examine this question and so close this retrospect. 

The effect of the tank's mobility on grand tactics was 
stupendous. Between the winter of 1914 and the summer 
of 1918, to all intents and purposes, the Allies waged a static 
war on the Western Front. During these three and a half 
years various attempts were made to wear down the enemy's 
fighting strength as a prelude to a decisive exploitation or 
pursuit, but these battles of attrition were mutually de- 
structive and the Allies undoubtedly lost more casualties than 
they inflicted. Attrition without the possibility of surprise 


or mobility is a mere " push of pikes," it is a muscular but 
brainless operation. At the Third Battle of Ypres it cost 
us a quarter of a million men. Then came the tank, and true 
attrition was rendered possible ; in other words, in tank battles 
the enemy lost more in human points than we did : it is 
doubtful whether in killed and wounded we lost, between 
August 8 and November 11, 1918, as many men as the 
prisoners we captured. This was only possible by our 
possessing the means of putting the grand tactical act of 
penetration into operation, by breaking down the " in- 
violability" of the German front, and by so doing render- 
ing envelopment a reality. 

In minor tactics it was possible, by means of the tank, 
to economise life by harmonising fire and movement and 
movement and security ; the tank soldier could use the 
whole of his energy in the manipulation of his weapons and 
none in the effort of moving himself forward ; further than 
this, sufficiently thick armour could be carried to protect him 
against bullets, shrapnel, and shell splinters. Human legs 
no longer controlled marches, and human skin no longer was 
the sole protection to the flesh beneath it. A new direction 
was obtained, that of the moving firing line ; the knight in 
armour was once again reinstated, his horse now a petrol 
engine and his lance a machine gun. 

Strategy, or the science of making the most of time for 
warlike ends, had practically ceased since November 1914. 
Even the great advances of the Germans in 1918 came to 
an abrupt stop through failure of road capacity, and roads 
and rails form the network upon which all former strategy 
was woven. The cross-country tractor, or tank, widened the 
size of roads to an almost unlimited degree. The earth 
became a universal vehicle of motion, like the sea, and to 
those sides which relied on tanks, naval tactics could be 
superimposed on those of land warfare. 

With the introduction of mechanical movement every 
principle of war became easy of application and, to-day, to 
pit an overland mechanical army against one relying on 
roads, rails, and muscular energy, is to pit a fleet of modern 


battleships against one of wind-driven three-deckers. The 
result of such an action is not even within the possibility of 
doubt : the latter will for a certainty be destroyed, for the 
highest form of machinery must win, because it saves time, 
and time is the controlling factor on the battlefield as in the 



Accepting war as a science and an art, that it is founded 
on definite principles which are apphed according to the 
conditions of the moment, we may scientifically reduce it 
to its component elements, which are : Men, weapons, and 
movement. A combination of these three is an army, a 
body of men which can fight and move. 

Tactics, or the art of moving armed men on the battlefield, 
change directly in accordance with the nature of the weapons 
themselves and the mobility of the means of transport. 
Each new or improved weapon or method of movement 
demands a corresponding change in the art of war. 

Tools, or weapons, if only the right ones can be discovered, 
form 99 per cent, of victory. Strategy, command, leader- 
ship, courage, discipline, supply, organisation, and all the 
moral and physical paraphernalia of war are as nothing to 
a high superiority of weapons ; at most they go to form the 
1 per cent, which makes the whole possible. Indeed, as 
Carlyle writes, " Savage animalism is nothing, inventive 
spiritualism is all." 

To-day the introduction of the tank on the battlefield 
entirely revolutionises the art of war in that : 

(i) It increases mobility by replacing muscular force by 
mechanical power. 

(ii) It increases security by rendering innocuous the effect 
of bullets through the feasibility of carrying armour plate. 

(iii) It increases offensive power by relieving the man 
from carrying his weapons or the horse from dragging 
them, and by facilitating ammunition supply it increases the 
destructive power of the weapons it carries. 

In other words, an army moved by petrol can obtain a 



greater effect from its weapons in a given time with less loss 
to itself than one which relies on muscular energy as its 
motive force. Whilst securing its crew dynamically a tank 
enables it to fight statically, it is in every respect the " land- 
ship " it was first called. 

These are our premises and from them we may deduce 
the following all-important fact : That in all wars, and 
especially modern wars — wars in which weapons change 
rapidly — ^no army of fifty years before any date selected 
would stand a " dog's chance " against the army existing at 
this date, not even if it were composed entirely of Winkel- 
rieds and Marshal Neys. Consider the following examples : 

(i) Napoleon was an infinitely greater general than Lord 
Raglan ; yet Lord Raglan would, in 1855, have beaten any 
army Napoleon, in 1805, could have led against him, because 
Lord Raglan's men were armed with the Minie rifie. 

(ii) Eleven years after Inkerman, Moltke would have 
beaten Lord Raglan's army hollow, not because he was a 
greater soldier than Lord Raglan, but because his men 
were armed with the needle gun. 

From this we may deduce the fact, which has already 
been stated, namely, that weapons form 99 per cent, of 
victory, consequently the General Staff of every army 
should be composed of mechanical clairvoyants, seers of 
new conditions, new fields of war to exploit, and new tools 
to assist in this exploitation. Had Napoleon, in 1805, 
offered a prize of £1,000,000 for a weapon 100 per cent, 
more efficient than the " Brown Bess," it is almost a cer- 
tainty that, by 1815, he would have got it ; for the want 
of a little foresight and for the want of the understanding 
that progress in weapons of war is a similar problem to pro- 
gress of tools in manufacture, he might have saved his 
Empire and ended his days as supreme tyrant of Europe. 

The whole history of the evolution of machine tools is 
that of the elimination of the workman and the replacement 
of muscular energy by steam, electricity, or some other form 
of power. " Fewer men, more machines, higher output " 
has during the last hundred years been the motto of every 


progressive workshop. Likewise we believe that from now 
onwards in every progressive army will a similar motto be 
adopted. Further than this, we believe that those nations 
which have proved their ability in the past as leaders of 
science and mechanical engineering will in the future be those 
which will produce the most efficient armies, for these armies 
will be based on the foundations of the commercial sciences. 

Accepting that the main factor in future warfare will be 
the replacing of man-power by machine-power, the logical 
deduction is that the ideal army to aim at is one man, not 
a conscripted nation, not even a super-scientist, but one 
man who can press a button or pull a plug and so put into 
operation war-machines evolved by the best brains of the 
nation during peacetime. Such an army need not even 
occupy the theatre of operations in which the war is to be 
fought ; he may be ensconced thousands of miles away, per- 
haps in Kamtchatka, fighting a battle on the Western Front. 
Is this impossible ? Not at all ; even in the late war we can 
picture to ourselves a one-armed cripple sitting in Muravieff- 
Amourski and electrically discharging gas against the Hin- 
denburg Line directly his indicator announces a favourable 

So far the chemist, but is man going to be controlled by 
gas, are human destinies to be limited by a " whiff of phos- 
gene " ? 

" Certainly not," answers the soldier mechanic. "It is 
true that the future may produce many unknown gases 
which, as long as they remain unknown to the opposing side, 
are unlikely to be rendered innocuous by means of a re- 
spirator ; I, however, will scrap the respirator and place my 
men in gas-proof tanks, and whenever my indicator denotes 
impure air, the crews will batten down their hatches, their 
engines will be run off accumulators, and they themselves 
will live on oxygen or compressed air. I will apply to land- 
warfare naval methods undreamt of before, I will produce 
a land machine which will, so to speak, submerge itself when 
the gas cloud approaches, just as a submarine submerges in 
the sea when a destroyer draws near." 


There is an answer to every weapon, and that side which 
has most thoroughly thought these answers out during days 
of peace is the one which is most Hkely to produce a steel- 
shod Achilles for days of war. 

Without journeying so far as Amourski let us imagine 
that war was to break out again three years hence and that 
we were equipped with a tank 200 per cent, superior to our 
at present best type — a machine travelling at fifteen miles 
an hour in place of five, and that the Germans sitting behind 
their Hindenburg Line were still backing personnel against 
materiel, numbers of men against perfection of weapons. 

An army is an organisation, comparable, like all other 
organisations, very closely with the human body. It possesses 
a body and a brain ; its fighting troops are the former, its 
headquarters staffs the latter. In the past the usual process 
of tactics has been to wage a body warfare : one body is 
moved up against the other body and like two boxers they 
pummel each other until one is knocked out. But suppose 
that boxer " A " could by some simple operation paralyse 
the brain of boxer " B," what use would all boxer " B's " 
muscular strength be to him, even if it rivalled that of 
Samson and Goliath combined ? No use at all, as David 
proved ! 

Now apply this process to the battle of 1923. The tank 
fleets, under cover of dense clouds of smoke, or at night- 
time, move forward, not against the body of the enemy's 
army but against his brains ; their objectives are not the 
enemy's infantry or the enemy's guns, not positions or 
tactical localities, but the billets of the German headquarters 
staffs — the Army, Corps, and Divisional headquarters. These 
they capture, destroy or disperse ; what then is the body 
going to do, for its brain is paralysed ? Who is going to 
control it, feed it with reserves, ammunition, and supplies ? 
Who is going to manoeuvre it to give it foot play ? Either 
it will stand still and be knocked out, or, much more likely, 
it will be seized by panic and become paralysed to action. 

What is the answer to this type of brain ^warfare ? The 
answer is the tank ; the brains will get into metal skulls or 


boxes, the bodies will get into the same, and land fleet will 
manoeuvre against land fleet. 

The growth of these tactics may be slow, but eventually 
they will become imperative. It may be urged that the 
field gun is master of the tank in the open, just as a land 
battery is master of a ship at sea. This is only true as long 
as the gunner can see his target, and no known means at 
present exist whereby sight can penetrate a dense cloud of 
smoke. It may also be urged that a heavy machine gun 
will enable the infantry to protect themselves against tanks. 
But to be mobile the weight of the machine gun is limited to 
the carrying power of two men — about 80 lb., and there is 
no known reason why a tank should not be armoured to 
withstand the bullets of such a weapon. If a heavier machine 
gun is made it will be forced to take to a mounting, and for 
choice to a mechanical one ; it will in fact become a tank or 
a tank destroyer. 

The necessity of armour in war has always been recognised, 
and its general disuse only dates from the sixteenth century 
onwards. When armour could not be used other means 
of protection, all makeshifts, were sought after — earth- works, 
entrenchments, use of ground, manoeuvre, and covering fire, 
and as regards the last-named substitute it is interesting to 
go back a little into history, for, even from a cursory study, 
we may better understand the present and foresee the 

In the days of our Henry VIII a body of arquebusiers 
had to stand twenty-five ranks deep in order to obtain 
continuity of fire ; that is to say, that once the first rank had 
fired and doubled to the rear it would only be ready loaded 
again when the twenty-fifth rank was about to discharge 
its pieces. By the days of Gustavus Adolphus, the art of 
musketry and the musket had so far improved as to permit 
of these twenty-five ranks being reduced to eight. As im- 
provement went apace we find Frederick the Great reducing 
them to three, and WeUington in the Peninsula to two. Even 
in the early period of the revolutionary wars it was found 
necessary for light infantry to reduce the human target they 


offered to the enemy's fire by making use of extensions. In 
1866 extensions became more feasible on account of tb^ 
Prussians being armed with a breach-loading rifle ; in 1870 
they became more general ; in 1899 they have grown to 
between ten and fifteen paces, which may be taken as the 
maximum for a man, armed with the magazine rifle, to 
dehver one round per yard of front each minute. In 1904 
trenches are made use of on an extensive scale, for as ex- 
tensions cannot be increased if fire effect is to be maintained, 
some other form of protection must be sought, and men, not 
being able to carry armour, must carry spades instead and 
so still further immobilise themselves. In 1914, after a 
brief hurry-scurry of open warfare, all sides take; to earth 
and the spade reigns supreme. 

Then comes the reintroduction of armour with the tank, 
and what do we see ? Not only mobility and direct protection, 
but the reinstitution of the firing line, not now morcelated 
at fifteen paces interval between the men composing it, 
but at 150 to 300 paces between the tanks, the mechanical 
skirmishing fortresses of which it is built up. A tank with 
a crew of 6 men can deliver fire at the rate of 300 rounds 
a minute, or equivalent to 30 riflemen at a South African 
War extension, and being armoured they suffer practically 
no loss and can consequently challenge not only 30 rifle- 
men but 300, any number, in fact, who are sent against them. 
The logical conclusion to be drawn from this is that exten- 
sions are useless, trenches at best but static makeshifts, 
the infantryman must don armour and, as he has not the 
strength to carry it, he must get into a tank. If this is 
common sense, let us attempt to visualise what a tank war 
of the future may entail. 

In the mechanical wars of the future we must first of all 
recognise the fact that the earth is a solid sea as easily 
traversable in all directions by a tractor as a sheet of ice is 
by a skater ; the battles in these wars will therefore more 
and more approximate to naval actions. As trenches, as we 
know them, and the ordinary field obstacles now constructed 
will be useless, it may become necessary during peacetime 


to turn the great strategical centres— manufactories, rail- 
ways, stores, seats of government, etc., into defended land- 
ports or protected power, fuel, and control stations. The 
fortifications of these will probably consist of immense dry 
moats and extensive minefields which will constitute a 
direct protection against tank attacks. Water obstacles 
will be useless, for the tank of a few years hence will un- 
doubtedly be of an amphibious nature. To protect these 
centres from the air, barracks, storehouses, mobilisation 
stores, tankodromes and aerodromes will all have to be con- 
structed well beneath the surface of the ground — in fact, the 
future fortress will approximate closely to a gigantic dugout 
surrounded by a field of land mines electrically manipulated. 

Near the frontier these defended ports will probably be 
equipped with and linked up by lethal gas works — gas-pro- 
ducing and storage plants, lodged below the surface, which 
on war being declared can instantaneously be set operating 
electrically by one man stationed hundreds of miles away 
if needs be. When this type of warfare is instituted, mobi- 
lisation will not consist in equipping with weapons a small 
section of the community, but in providing such of the 
civil population as cannot be rapidly evacuated from the 
area it is proposed to inundate, or placed in gastight shelters 
safely underground, with anti-gas appliances. Under these 
circumstances the defence of frontiers will be organised 
according to prevaihng winds, and signs of war will be looked 
for not amongst military but civil movements. 

As the gas-storage tanks are opened and the gas-producing 
plants set operating, fleets of fast-moving tanks, equipped 
with tons of liquid gas, against which the enemy will probably 
have no means of protection,' will cross the frontier and 
obliterate every living thing in the fields and farms, the 
villages and cities of the enemy's country. Whilst life is 
being swept away around the frontier fleets of aeroplanes 

1 During the war the normal system of detecting new gases was to ex- 
amine captured respirators, and from the chemicals they contained in- 
versely deduce the gases they would protect their wearers against. In 
peacetime no such means of detection will be possible. 


will attack the enemy's great industrial and governing 
centres. All these attacks will be made, at first, not against 
the enemy's army, which will be mobilising underground, but 
against the civil population in order to compel it to accept 
the will of the attacker. 

If the enemy will not accept peace terms forthwith, then, 
wars in the air and on the earth will take place between 
machines to gain superiority. Tank will meet tank, and, 
commanded from the air, fleets of these machines will man- 
oeuvre between the defended ports seeking each other out 
and exterminating each other in orthodox naval fashion. 
Whilst these small forces of men, representing perhaps 0'5 
per cent, or 1 per cent, of the entire population of the 
country, strong through machinery, are at death-grips with 
their enemy, their respective nations will be producing 
weapons for them ; so, in the future, as military fighting 
man-power dwindles must we expect to see military manu- 
facturing man-power increase. 

Are we safe in this little island of ours against the future ? 
If at times, during the " alchemical " period of warfare, we 
have been threatened and invaded, we may be certain that 
during the scientific period we shall be less secure than we 
have been in the past. 

From the present-day tank to one which can plunge into 
the Channel at Calais at 4 in the morning, land at Dover at 
six o'clock, and be outside Buckingham Palace for an early 
lunch will not probably require as many as the fifty-two 
years which have separated the Merrimac from the Tiger 
or the Queen Elizabeth. If this is too remote a period for 
the present generation to grow anxious about, there is no 
reason why four or five years hence ships should not be 
constructed as tank-carriers, these machines being conveyed 
across the ocean and launched into the sea near the coast 
carrying sufficient fuel to move them 300 or 400 miles inland. 
From ships as carriers it is but one step to aeroplanes as 
supphers and lifters, and another to aeroplanes as tanks 

If the evolution of war, in the past, has been slow, do not 


let us flatter ourselves that it is likely to remain so in the 
future. From the gliders of the Wright Brothers the aero- 
plane rapidly evolved, and from a 40 H.P. engine of ten or 
twelve years back to-day the Porte " Super-Baby" triplane 
carries five engines of 400 H.P. each and the Tarrant 
triplane has a span of 131 feet and to drive it six Napier 
" Lion " engines are used, developing no less than 3,000 
horse-power. The tank is still in its infancy, but it will 
grow and one day in mechanical perfection and efficiency 
catch up with the super-Dreadnought and the Handley Page, 
and what then ? A close co-operation between the great 
mechanical weapons, the seaship, the airship, and the 
landship — or, if preferred, of boat, aeroplane, and tank — will 
take place. These weapons will approximate and unify, 
evolving one arm and not three arms, which will require one 
defence force and not three. This, even to-day, is becoming 
more and more apparent, and the sooner the brains of the 
future Defence Force are developed the better for this 
nation, for to-day we are thinking, like mediaeval magicians, 
in separate terms of air, water, and earth, and some of us 
in those of gabions, lances, and blunderbusses. 

If great wars can be restricted or abolished by word of 
mouth or written agreement, the above gropings into the 
future, even if possible, may never materialise ; but even if 
this be so, many small wars lie in front of us, for Europe 
politically, since 1914, has practically gone back 400 years, 
the frontiers of the smaller nations approximating closely to 
those of the later Middle Ages. The more nations there are 
in the world the more wars there will be in the making, and 
as half the smaller nations of central and eastern Europe 
consider war a national sport there is little likelihood of 
agreements being kept or peace being maintained ; in fact, 
all agreements which cannot be compelled by brute force are 
likely to be treated as " scraps of paper." 

To enforce peace, power and the means of applying it 
will be needed by the greater nations who by law will never 
quarrel ; here the mechanic steps forward and presents the 
nations concerned with the tank and the aei'oplane as a 


means towards this end. He is perfectly right ; the general 
introduction of mechanical weapons must bring with it the 
end of small wars if not also of civil disturbances. 

Take the case of the defence of India. What has always 
been the great, difficulty in our frontier expeditions ? Not 
our enemy or his weapons, but the country which enables 
the Afghan to evade our columns and impede our advance. 
It is the resistance offered by natural obstacles which we 
have to overcome and not those imposed upon us by weapons 
which generally are vastly inferior to those with which our 
men are equipped. 

Take the case of a punitive expedition starting from 
Peshawer and proceeding to Kabul. The force will consist 
of three bodies of troops — a small fighting advanced guard, 
a large main body protecting the transport, and strong flank 
guards protecting the main body. On account of the tactics 
which have to be adopted the advance is excessively slow. 
The main body proceeding along the roads, which almost 
inevitably coincide with the bottoms of the valleys, has to 
be kept out of rifle shot, consequently the flank guards have 
usually to " crown the heights " on each side of the road, 
which necessitates much climbing and loss of time. If the 
advance were over an open veldt land, as in South Africa, in 
place of in a hilly country, movement would be simplified, 
but still will the flank guards have to be thrown out because 
the main body, consisting of men and animals, is pervious 
to bullets. This perviousness to bullets is the basis of the 
whole trouble, and unless bullet-proof armour can be carried, 
when it does not matter whether the rifle is fired at a range 
of two yards or two miles, the only means of denjang effect 
to the rifle is to keep it out of range of its target. 

Though up to a short time ago the carrying of armour 
was not a feasible proposition, now it is, and there are few 
more difficulties in advancing up or down the Khyber with 
a well-constructed tank than across the open. Armour, by 
rendering flesh impervious to bullets, does away with the 
necessity of flank guards and long stragghng supply columns, 
and our punitive expedition equipped with tanks can reach 


Kabul in a few days, and not only reach it hut abandon 
its communications, as they will require no protection. If 
tank supply columns, which are self-protecting, are con- 
sidered too slow, once the force has reached Kabul its supply 
and the evacuation of its sick (there will be but few wounded) 
can be carried out by aeroplane. The whole operation 
becomes too simple to be classed as an operation of war. 
Once impress upon the Afghan the hopelessness of facing 
a mechanical punitive force and he will give up rendering 
such forces necessary. 

In our many small wars of the past we have frequently 
been faced with desert warfare, a warfare even more difii- 
cult than hill and mountain fighting. Here again the chief 
difficulty is a natural one — want of water, and not an arti- 
ficial one — superiority of the enemy's weapons. In 1885 
Sir Henry Stewart started from Korti on the Nile to relieve 
General Gordon : his difficulties were supply difficulties, and 
it took him twenty-one days to reach Gubat, a distance of 
180 miles. A tank moving at an average pace of ten miles an 
hour could have accomplished the journey in two days, and 
being supplied by aeroplane could have reached Khartum 
a few days later. One tank would have won Maiwand, 
Isandhlwana, and El Teb ; one tank can meet any quantity 
of Tower muskets, or Mauser rifles for aught that ; one tank, 
costing say £10,000, can not only win a small war normally 
costing £2,000,000, but render such wars in the future highly 
improbable if not impossible. The moral, therefore, is — get 
the tank. 

From small wars to internal Imperial Defence is but one 
step. Render rebellion hopeless and it will not take place. 
In India we lock up in an unremunerative army 75,000 
British troops and 150,000 Indian. Both these forces can 
be done away with and order maintained, and maintained 
with certainty, by a mechanical police force of 20,000 to 
25,000 men. 

What now is the great lesson to be learnt from the above 
examples ? That war will be eliminated by weapons, not 
by words or treaties or leagues of nations ; by weapons-^ 


leagues of tanks, aeroplanes, and submarines — which will 
render opposition hopeless or retribution so 'terrible that 
nations will think not once or twice but many times before 
going to war. If the civilian population of a country know 
that should they demand war they may be killed in a few 
minutes by the tens of thousands, they will not only cease 
to demand it but see beforehand that they are well prepared 
by superiority of weapons to terrify their neighbours out of 
declaring war against them. 

Weapons we, therefore, see are, if not a means of ending 
war and ridding the world of this dementia, a means of 
maintaining peace on a far firmer footing than hitherto it 
has been maintained by muscular power. To limit the 
evolution of weapons is therefore to limit the periods of 
peace. An Army cannot stand still, it must develop with 
the civilisation of which it forms part or become barbaric. 
To equip pur Army to-day with bows and arrows would not 
reduce the frequency of war, it would actually increase it, 
for according to his tools, so is man himself, and as an Army 
is built up of men, if these men are armed with bows and 
arrows they will in nature closely approximate to the age 
which produced these weapons, the age which burnt Joan 
of Arc. Equally so will the Army of to-day, if in equip- 
ment it be not allowed to keep pace with scientific progress, 
develop into a band of brigands, for in 2019 the rifle and 
gun of to-day, and the civilisation which produced them, wiU 
be as uncouth as the arquebus, the carronade, and the manners 
of the sixteenth century. 

If a millennium is ever to be ushered in upon earth it will 
be accomplished through the development of brain-power 
and not through it becoming atrophied. If war is to be 
rendered impossible the process will be a slow evolutionary 
one, the desire of war gradually slowing down, and its motive 
force energising some other ideal. To restrict war by main- 
taining soldiers as ill-armed barbarians is to prevent it 
working out its destined course. Human nature, in spite 
of Benjamin Kidd, does not change in a generation, and the 
tendencies which beget war will out until human nature has 


outgrown therri. The world has a soul, and like that of a 
man it mus^ass through years of love, hate, striving and 
ambition before attaining those of wisdom and decay. 

There may yet be many wars ahead of us, but one thing 
would appear to be certain, and this is that small wars will 
disappear and great ones become less frequent, science 
rendering them too terrible to be entered upon lightly. 

To-day we stand upon the threshold of a new epoch in 
the history of the world — war based on petrol, the natural 
sequent of an industry based on steam. That we have 
attained the final step on the evolutionary ladder of war is 
most unlikely, for mechanical and chemical weapons may 
disappear and be replaced by others still more terrible. 
Electricity has scarcely yet been touched upon and it is not 
impossible that mechanical warfare will be replaced by one 
of a wireless nature, and that not only the elements, but 
man's flesh and bones, will be controlled by the " fluid " 
which to-day we do not even understand. This method of 
imposing the will of one man on another may in its turn be 
replaced by a purely psychological warfare, wherein weapons 
are not even used or battlefields sought or loss of life or limb 
aimed at ; but, in place, the corruption of the human reason, 
the dimming of the human intellect, and the disintegration 
of the moral and spiritual life of one nation by the influence 
of the will of another is accomplished. 

Be all these as they may, one fact stands out supreme in 
all types and conditions of war, and this is, that the strongest 
and most efficient brain wins, which applies equally to all 
nations as it does to all individuals. 

Animal superiority over animal is based on muscle, human 
superiority over human is based on brain. The nation 
with the supreme brain will eventually rule the world, and 
so long as war continues the Army with the best brains (which 
also means the best weapons) will accomplish victory with 
the least loss. Our Army from to-day must step forward ; 
" to advance is to conquer," and this apphes in greater force 
to brain-power than to muscle-power, for brains control 
muscles. To stand still is to retrogress ; to glance back- 


wards is to lose time, and if we pause now we are lost in 
the future. Do not, therefore, let us mark time on our own 
graves, do not let us hark back to 1914 with its rifles and its 
ammunition boots, its sabres and its horseshoes, and all its 
muscular barbarism ; let us plan and let us think, thus shall 
we penetrate the veil of the future, thus shall we learn how 
to equip our Army with a brain and with a body which 
united, if war be ever again forced upon us, will compel 
victory at the smallest possible cost. Surely this is an 
ideal worthy of a great nation and of a great Army, the 
object of which is to prevent war and to maintain peace, to 
prevent war by science and not by nescience, by progress 
and not by retrogression. 


Abancoiirt, 206, 231 

Abbas Ridge, 100 

Abb6, Bois de 1', 201 

Abbeville, 34 

Abelard, xv 

Acheux, 58 

Aohieourt, 84, 105, 257 

Achiet-le-Grand, 84, 176, 255 

Achiet-le-Petit, 176, 292 

Acq, 84 

Adelpare, 208, 210 

Admiralty, the, 18-20, 22, 25, 27-33 

Aginoourt, 2 

Aillette, the, 196 

Aisne, the, 14, 81, 189, 196-7, 215 

Albert, 71, 175, 252-4 

Alberta, 121-2 

Aldershot, 9-11 

Alexandria, 134 

AliElMuntar, 101, 130 

Allen, Major G. W. G., M.C., xii 

Alleux, Bois des, 173 

Alvinzi, xiv 

American Army, 270-2, 275, 277-84, 

American Machinist, The, xii, 4 
American Tank Corps, 268, 271-2, 

274, 277-82, 284 
Amervalles, 284 
Amiens, 169, 217-29, 237, 243, 245, 

247, 290 
Ancre, the, 54, 57-9, 176, 196 
Anneux, 150 

Anti-tank tactics, 87-8, 260-5 
Antwerp, 198 
Applegarth tractor, 10 
Aquenne, Bois d', 202 
Archdale, Captain O. A., xii 
Archery in warfare, 2 
Aichinger, 4 
Ardennes, the, 1 
Argonne, the, 280 
Armentieres, 200 
Arnold, Captain A. E., M.C., 235 
Arnold, Lieutenant C. B., D.S.O., xiii, 

Arrachis, Bois des, 208, 210 
Arras, 81-9, 105, 108, 114, 144, 166, 

250-3, 257-9 

Arrol, Messrs. William, 28 

Atawineh Ridge, 100 

Atkin-Berry, Major H. C, D.S.O., 
M.C., XV 

Australia Hill, 101 

Australian Corps, 87, 99, 101, 109-10, 
130, 203, 205, 207, 215, 217-9, 
221-3, 226, 231-2, 252, 254-5, 267, 
270-1, 274, 289, 290-2, 304 

Aveluy, 71, 175-6 

Avesnes, 257 

Avonmouth, 98 

Awoingt, 274 

Bacon, Admiral Sir Reginald, K.C.B., 
K.C.V.O., D.S.O., 21-2, 66 

Bailleul, 83 

Bailleulval, 200 

Baker, Colonel C. B., 277 

Baker Carr, Brig^-Gen. C. D'A. B. S., 
C.M.G., D.S.O., xvi, 62 

Balfour, Right Hon. A. J., 25 

Bancourt, 258 

Bank Farm, 121 

Banteux, 138-9 

Bapaume, 55, 144, 175-6, 216, 243, 
247, 250-2, 293 

Barastre, 175 

Barry, John Richard, 9 

Batter tractor, 10-13, 303 

Bayonvillers, 231-2 

Bazentin, 175 

Bazuel, 282 

Beach Post, 131 

Beaucamp, 269 

Beaucourt-sur-Ancre, 176, 251 

Beaufort, 225 

Beaumont Hamel, 58 

Beauquesne, 61 

Beaurains, 91 

Beaurevoir, 144-5, 273, 281 

Beauval, 203 

Beersheba, 99-100, 130 

Behagnies, 235 

Belah, 101 

Bellenglise, 270 

Bellicourt, 272, 281 

Belloy, 290 

Berliet, 186 




Bermicourt, 61-2, 71, 127, 141, 168, 

Berthen, 200 

Bertincourt, 143 

Beugny, 174,258 

Biefvillers, 256 

Big Willie, 267, 303 

Bihucourt, 255 

Bird, Colonel, 25 

Bisley, 31, 159-61 

Blangy, 62, 71, 200 

Bleoourt, 273 

Boescheppe, 200 

Bois des Bceufs, 85 

Bois d'Olhain, 173 

Bois I'Eveque, 282 

Bony, 249, 293 

Boulogne, 4 

Bourg, 279 

Bourgon, General de, 209 

Bourlon Wood, 144-6, 149, 150-1, 

Bovington Camp, see Wool 

Boyd-Rochfort, Major H., D.S.O., 

Boydell engine, 9 

Boyeffles, 173 

Bradley, Lieut.-ColonelD.W.,D.S.O., 

xii, 34, 54, 154, 162 
Bramond, Frank, 1 i 
Brancourt, 281 
Bray-sur-Somme, 34, 172, 175-6, 218, 

225-6, 252, 254, 257 
Brie Bridge, 175 
Briquetterie, the, 54 
Brock, Commander, 165 
Broodseinde Ridge, 119 
Brough, Lieut.-Colonel, C.M.G., 34, 

Bruay, 200 
Brussels, 108 
Bucquoy, 204, 292 
Buire Wood, 172 

Bullecourt, 86-8, 205, 207, 213, 261 
Bullhouse Farm, 159 
Burnett- Stuart, Brig. -Gen., 162 
Bus, 175 

Bus les Artois, 209 
Busnes, 200 

Butler, Major-Gen., 162 
Buzancy, 193 

Byng, General Sir Julian (afterwards 
Lord), xvi, 139 

Caohy, 201-2, 274 
Caix, 218 

California Trench, 122 
Cambrai, xvi, 15, 64, 82, 129, 138-53, 
155-8, 165, 167, 173, 181, 186, 215, 

217, 219, 237, 242, 250, 273-6, 304 

Canadian Corps, 85, 163-5, 169, 20^ 
218-21, 223, 257-8, 269, 273 

Cantigny, 188 

Capper, Major-Gen. Sir John, K.C.B 

Capricorn Keep, 121 

Carney, Driver, 234-5 

Carter, Lieut.-Colonel E. J., xiii 
289-90, 294 

Cassel, 119 

Castel, 218 
, I Catillon, 282, 285 
4;7 Cavalry Corps, 219-20, 225, 230 
\r"Ca Villon, aa* ~ 

Cayeux Wood, 224 

Cercottes, 184, 186 

Chacrise, 193 

Champlieu, 185 

Charleroi, 241, 295 

Charteris, Capt. the Hon. Evan, xi, 
xii, XV 

Chateau- Thierry, 189, 195, 290 

Chaufours Wood, 248 

Chaulnes, 176, 235 

Chaumont, 279 

Chauss^e Brunehaut, 193 

Chedeville, Colonel, 1 90 

Chemin des Dames, 186-7 

Chinese Labour Company, 51st, 128-9 

Chipilly, 169,224-5 

ChuignoUes, 252, 254, 292 

Churchill, Right Hon. Winston, 18- 
20, 22, 24-5, 27-8, 32-3 

Clapham Junction, 109 

CI6ry, 175 

Cockcroft, the, 122 

Cojeul, 92 

Colincamps, 176 

Cologne, 295 

Cologne, river, 1 74-5 

Combles, 55 

Comines, 116 

Concrois Wood, 193 

Connaught Rangers, 173 

Contalmaison, 176 

Conty, 289-90 

Courage, Brig.-Gen. A., D.S.O., M.C., 

xvi, 62 
Courcelles, 295 
Courchamps, 194 
Craonne, 82, 186-7 
Crested Rock, 131-2 
Crevecoeur, 138-9, 144-6 
Cricket Valley, 131, 133 
Crinchon, river, 84 
Croisilles, 94-5, 256 
Crompton, Col., R.E., 23 
Cugnot, 8-9 



Cuvillers, 273 
Cyrus, 142 

Dalby-Jones, Lieut.-Colonel W., 29 

Dale-Bussell, P., 23, 32-3 

Debeney, General, 211 

Deirel Belah, 99-100, 130-1, 133 

Deligny HUl, 269 

Delville Wood, 56 

Dermicourt, 259 

Desert Column, 130 

Dessart Wood, 143, 146 

Devonport, 98 

D'Eyncourt, Sir Eustace Tennyson, 

K.C.B., xii, 22-3, 30-4, 66 
Diplock, Mr., 24 
Dixmude, 119 
Doignies, 173-4 
Doingt Wood, 172 
Dolls' House, 204 
Doon Copse, 273 
Dormans, 189, 195 
Douai, 82 
Doucet, Lieut.-Colonel L. C. A. deB., 

Doullens, 174 
Dranoutre, 109 
Drocoiu-t- Queant Line, 82, 84, 108, 

258, 293 
Druid Ridge, 100 
Dumble, Colonel, 23 
Dunajec, the, 15, 300, 301 
Dundas, Major R. W., M.C., xv 
Dunlop, Andrew, 9 
Durham Light Infantry, 15th, 67 

Earle, Captain A., 66 

Eclimeux, 62 

Edgeworth, Richard Lovell, 9 

El Arish, 98-9, 101, 131-3 

El Burs, 101 

EUes, Major-Gen. H. J., C.B., D.S.O., 

xiii, xiv, xvi, 28, 61, 64, 66, 147-8, 

El Sire, 101 
Elveden, 31, 160-2 
Engineer, The, xii, 9 
Epehy, 174, 250, 266-72 
Epp6-Sauvage, 294 
Erin, 62, 70-1, 127, 180 
Ervillers, 255 
Esoaut, the, 138 
Esclairvillers Wood, 173 
Espilly, 195 
Estaires, 200 

Estienne, General, 184-6, 198 
Etricourt, 272 

Ex-Crown Prince, the, 188, 217 
Ex-Kaiser, the, 188 

Experiments Committee, 26 

Fampoux, 83 

Fanny's Farm, 111 

Favreuil, 257 

FayoUes, General, 290 

Fender, Guillaume, 9 

Ferdinand's Farm, 121 

Fere-en- Tardenois, 290 

Festubert, 200 

Feuchy, 85 

Feuchy-Chapel, 86-87 

Flers, 55-6 

Flesquieres, 144-9, 155, 262, 269 

Flos, 55 

Foch, Marshal, 200, 217 

Fonsomme, 273 

Fontaine-au-Bois, 282 

Fontaine-Notre-Dame, 150-1, 262 

Fontana, 4 

Foot, Major S. H., D.S.O., xii 

Forsyth-Major, Major O. A., xii, 98 

Foster, Messrs. William, 24 
Foster-Daimler tractor, 22, 39 
Foucauoourt, 291 
Fouilloy, 206 

Fowke, Major-Gen. G. H., 21 
Fraicourt, 275 
Framerville, 225, 291 
Frechencourt, 200 
Frederick the Great, 14 
Freiburg, 235 
Fremicourt, 172, 258 
French, Field-Marshal Sir John 

(afterwards Lord), 21 
French Tank Corps, 184-98 
Fresnoy-le-Petit, 267 
Frezenberg, 121 
Fricourt, XV, 175, 242 
Fuller, Brevet-Colonel J. F. C, D.S.O., 

xi, 66, 299 note 
Furse, Major-Gen. Sir William, 

K.C.B., D.S.O., 66 

Gallipoli, 123 

Gas, Poison, 17, 30, 314-5 

Gauche Wood, 152 

Gavrelle, 88 

Gaza, 98-102, 130-4 

Geninwell Copse, 1 73 

George V, His Majesty King, 161, 165 

German, Thomas, 9 

German Tank Corps, 201, 212-6, 241 

Gheluvelt, 119 

Ghent, 108 

Gilban, 98 

Gird Trench, 57 

Givenchy, 200 



Glasgow, Brig.-Gen.W.,C.H.G., 63, 67 
Glencorse Wood, 261 
Gommecourt, 17, 81-2, 255 
Gonnelieu, 270 
Gordon, General, 318 
Gore-Anley, Brig.-Gen. F., D.S.O., 

Gouzeaucourt, 143, U6, 266, 268-9 
Graincourt, 146, 149 
Grand Bois, 110 
Grand Ravin, 149-50 
Grand Rozoy, 196 
Grandeeourt, 110, 176 
Green, Major G. A., M.C., xiv 
Green Dvimp, 55 
Green Hill, 101-2 
GreviUers, 256 
Grivesnes, 188 
Grose, Francis, 4 
Guards' Division, 152, 255, 257 
Guemappe, 257 
Guest, Major, 26 
Gueudecourt, 55-7, 260 
Guillaucourt, 224, 231 
Guillemont, 267-70 
Guise, 198 
Gun Hill, 131, 133 
Gunpowder, introduction of, 2 

Haig, Field-Marshal Sir Douglas 

(afterwards Earl), 28, 32, 287-8 
Ham, 220 
Hamel,xvi, 168, 217, 204-5, 207, 244, 

262, 304-5 
Hamelet, 206 
Hamelincourt, 256 
Hamencourt, 174 
Hangard, Bois de, 201-2 
Haplincourt, 258 
Happegarbes, 285 
Happy Valley, 254, 257 
Harbonnieres, 224, 232, 235 
Hardress Lloyd, Brig.-Gen. J., D.S.O., 

xvi, 63 
Hareira, 95, 130 
Hargicourt, 267 
Harp, The, 83, 85-6 
Harpon, Bois de, 208, 210 
Hartennes Wood, 1 93 
Haslam, Lieut., 246 
Hatfield, 30-1 
Havre, 127 

Havrincourt Wood, 143, 145-7, 149 
Heart Hill, 100 
Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps, 

31, 159 
Hebuteme, 176,304 
Hecq, 286 
Hendecourt, 87 

Henincourt, 172 

Heninel, 82, 85-6, 256 

Henia-sur-Cojeul, 83, 256 

Herleville, 252 

Hermies, 259 

Hervilly, 174 

Hervin Farm, 85 

Hesdin, 127 

Hetherington, Major T. G., 22-4 

Heudicourt, 143 

Hillock Farm, 122 

Hindenburg, Marshal, xiv, 188, 241 

Hindenburg Line, 82, 83, 86, 87, 94-5, 

141, 145, 250, 256, 267, 270-2, 275, 

Hindenburg Support Line, 145 
Holden, Colonel, 25 
Holdford-Walker, Major, 162 
Holnon, 266 

Holt caterpillar tractor, 11, 22 
Holtzschuhler, 6-7 
Honnechy, 275, 293-4 
Honnecourt, 151 
Hooge, 119, 121 
Homihan Roy, xvii 
Hornsby tractor, 1 1 
Hotblack, Major F. E., D.S.O., M.C., 

xiii, XV, 61 
Houthulst Forest, 120 
Humieres, 62, 200 
Humeroeuil, 70 

Imperial Defence Committee, 26 

Inchy, 144 

India, defence of, 317-8 

Indian Cavalry Division, 130 

In Seirat, 100 

Inter- Allied Tank Committee, 65 

Island Wood, 131 

Italian Army, 130 

Iveagh, Lord, 160-1 

Iwuy, 144 

Joffre, Marshal, 185 

Joint Naval and Military Committee, 

Joly de Maizeroy, 298 
Joncourt, 273 
Jones, Paul, xiii 
Joye Farm, 111 

Kantara, 98 

Kemmel, Moimt, 110, 119 
Kemmeli5eek, the, 117 
Khan Yunus, 99 
Kidd, Benjamin, 319 
Kirbet El Sihan, 101, 102 
Kitchener, Field-Marshal Lord, 24, 



Knoll, The, 267-70 
Knothe, Major H., M.C., 161 
Kurd Hill, 100-2 
Kurd Valley, 99 
Kyeser, Conrad, 4 

La Belle Etoile, 144 

Labyrinth, the, 101 

La Cauchie, 200 

La Fere, 173 

LaiTaux Hill, 187 

LaFolie, 151 

Lagash, 300 

Lagnicourt, 83, 258 

La Maisonette, 176 

Landrecies, 170, 285-6 

Landships Committee, 23-5, 28 

Langemarck, 119 

Lateau Wood, 148 

La Vacquerie, 148 

Le Bosquet, 139 

Le Cateau, 282 

Le Catelet, 272, 283-4 

Le Quesnel, 224 

Lees Hill, 101-2 

Leigh-MaJlory, Major T., D.S.O., xiii 

Lenclos, Ninon de, xv 

Leonardo da Vinci, 5, 7 

Les-Trois-Bouqueteaux, 208, 210 

Lestren, 200 

Leuvrigny, Bois de, 195 

Liessies, 294 

Lihons, 225-6 

LiJle, 108 

Little WiUie, 26 

Lloyd George, Right Hon. D., 25, 30, 

Lombartbeek, the, 117 
Loop, the, 34 
Luce, the, 169 
Ludendorff, Greneral, xiv, 188, 218, 

222-3, 237-8, 263 
Lulworth, 162 
Lys, the, 199 

Magdhaba, 131 
Macdonald's Wood, 121 
McKenna, Right Hon. Reginald, 30 
Mackensen, Field-Marshal von, 15 
Maclean, J. B., 66 
Magny, 272 
MaUly Poivres, 185 
Maistre, General, 203 
Malmaison, 187 
Mahn6dy, 295 
Manchester, H. H., 4 note, 8 
Manchester Regiment, 273 
Mangin, General, 189 
Mansara, 99-100 

Maquion, 269 

Marcoing, 82, 139, 144-6, 148-50, 180 

Maretz, 293 

Marfaux, 195 

Maricourt, 54, 175-6 

Marly-le-Roi, 184 

Marne, the, 14, 190, 195 

Martel, Major G. le Q., D.S.O., M.C., 

XV, 61, 161 
Martigny, 185 
Martinpuich, 55 
Marwitz, General von der, 151 
Masnieres, 139, 144-6, 149-51 
Massenbach, 298 
Mathew-Lannowe, Brig.-Gen. E. B., 

C.M.G., D.S.O., xii, 62, 66 
Maubeuge, 250, 285-8 
Maurice de Saxe, 298 
Maurois, 275, 293 
Maximilian I, 7 
Mazar Trench, 101 
Meaulte, 254 
Menin, 276 
Mercatel, 83, 92 
Mercedes tractor, 1 1 
Mericourt, 218, 225 
Merlimont, 72, 200, 245, 289 
Mers, 70, 289 
Merville, 200, 304 

Messines, 108,113-4,166,180,242,261 
Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and 

Finance Co., 28 
Meuse, the, 197 
M^zieres, 81 
Miette, the, 187 
Military Antiquities, 4 
Miraumont, 176 
Mceuvres, 269 
Moislains, 174-5 
Molesworth, Lieut.-Colonel J. D. M., 

M.C., xiii, 180 
Molinghem, 200 

Monchy le Preux, 82-4, 88, 257-8 
Moncrieff, Major-Gen. Sir George 

Scott-, 22, 25 
Mon du Hibou, 122 
Money Hill, 99-100 
Montauban, xv, 175-6 
Montbrehain, 273-4, 281 
Montdidier, 188, 196 
Montenescourt, xvi, 84 
Monument, the, 202 
Morchies, 174,258 
Moreuil, xvi, 204, 207-8, 258 
Morlancourt, 206 
Mormal, Forest of, 284-6 
Morval, 55 
Mory Copse, 256-7 
Motor Cycle, The, 159 

328 INDEX 

Mount Pleasant Wood, 95-7 
Moustier, 294-5 
Moyenneville, 251, 257 
Munitions, Ministry of, 25, 30-4 
Murat, xvi 
Musketry, art of, 312-3 

Nancy, 81 

Napoleon, xiv, 8, 104, 170-1, 309 

Nauroy, 272 

Nepal Trench, 92 

Neuville St. Vaast, 84 

Neuville-Vitasse, 83, 85, 86, 91, 257 

Neuvilly, 284 

New Zealand Division, 258, 292-3 

Newburn, John, 9 

Newbury, 127 

Ney, Marshal, xv 

Nieppe, 200 

Nieuport, 15, 108 

Nine Wood, 146, 149 

Nord, Canal du, 144, 268-9 

Noyelles, 149 

Noyon, 81, 188,229 

Nutt, Major N., 98 

Oise, the, 138, 172, 285 
Oosthoek, 117 
Oosttaveme, 109, 111, 115 
Ostend, 81 
Ouderdom, 109, 117 
Ourcq, the, 189-90, 290 
Outpost Hill, 101-2, 130 
Ovillers, 54 

Paillenoourt, 144 

Pailleul, 144 

Palmer, William, 9 

Palmer gunsight, 164 

Parker, Lieut.-Colonel H., 277-8 

Parvillers, 226 

Passchendaele, 287 

Patten, Colonel G. S., 279 

Pedrail Co., 24, 27-8 

Peiziere, 173 

P6ronne, 229 

Perry, Sir Percival, 66 

Pershing, General, 279 

Pierremont, 62 

Pissy, 289 

Ploegsteert, 200 

Poelcappelle, 122-4 

Point du Jour, 83 

Polygon veld, 120 

Poperinghe, 117, 289 

Porte triplane, 316 

Pozieres, 176 

Premont, 275 

Premy Chapel, 269 

Preux, 286 

Proyart, 226, 292 
Pusieux, 250 

Quadrilateral, the, 267 
Queen's Hill, 101-2 
Quennemont Farm, 268-9, 271 

Rafa Trench, 99-101, 131-3 

Raglan, Lord, 309 

Raillencourt, 270 

Ralston, W., 303 

Ramicourt, 273 

Ramousies, 294 

Ramsey, David, 8 

Ravenel, 290 

Rawlinson, General Sir Henry (after- 
wards Lord), 227, 305 

Reims, 81-2, 108, 188-90, 195, 215, 

Reincourt, 87 

Renuart Farm, 281 

Ribbans, Gunner, 231, 233-4 

Ribecourt, 138-9 

Ricardo engine, 42 

Richborough, 127 

Riencoxirt, 55 

Riguerval Wood, 275 

Robersart, 282 

Roberts tractor, 1 1 

Robertson, General Sir William, 32, 

Rochet-Schneider tractor, 11 

Rookenbach, Colonel, 278-9 

Roclincotirt, 83-5 

Rocquigny-Villers, 55 

Roeux, 88, 95-7 

Roisel, 172-4 

Romani Trench, 99 

Roncheres, 290 

Ronssoy Wood, 173, 267 

Rosieres, 225, 246 

Roulers, 197 

Royal Air Force, 239, 242-9 

Royal Engineers, 284 

Royal Flying Corps, 61 

Royal Munster Fusiliers, 173 

Royal Naval Air Service, 29-30 

Roye, 82, 196, 229 

Rumilly, 145, 148-9 

Ruyaulcourt, 143 

Rycroft, Major, 232 

St. Aubert, 215 

St. Emihe, 173 

St. Julien, 121-4 

St. Leger, 256 

St. Martin- Eglise, 62 

St. Mihiel, 196-7, 279 

St. OUe, 270 



St. Omer, U9 

St. Pierre-Divion, 58 

St. Quentin, 138, 197-8, 250 

-St. Quentin Canal, 270 

St. Ribert, Bois de, 208, 210 

St. Souplet, 281, 283 

Salisbury Plain, 28 

Salonika, 197 

Sambre, the, 284 

.Sampson Ridge, 101 

Sancourt, 273 

Sapignies, 255-7 

Sautrecourt, 62 

Sauvillers, 188, 204, 207-8 

Sayer, Major H. S., xii 

Scarpa, the, 83, 85, 138, 172-3, 250 

Scheldt Canal, 284 

Scherpenberg, 110 

Scheuch, General, 240-1 

Schott, Caspar, 8 

Sea Post, 131, 133 

Searle, Colonel F., C.B.E., D.S.O., xiv 

Seely, Major-Gen. Right Hon. J. E. B. 

SeUe, the, 250, 281, 283-5 
S6n^cat Wood, 188 
Senlis, 290 
Sens6e, the, 144, 268 
Senate Valley, 258 
Sequehart, 273 
Serain, 249, 275 
SeranvUlers, 145, 148 
Serre, 17, 176,250 
Sforza, Ludovico, 5 
Sheikh Abbas, 99-100 
Sheikh Hasan, 131-3 
Sheikh Nebhan, 100, 130 
Sheikh Redwam, 101 
Shekia, 99 
Simenoourt, 200 
Simmonds, 2nd Lieutenant, 254 
Smith, Geoffrey, 159 
Smythe, Sir John, xvii 
Soissons, 82, 108, 195, 197-8, 217 
Somme, the, 16-7, 33-4, 54, 58-9, 81, 

98, 134, 166, 169, 172-7, 199-201, 

205-6, 212, 223, 225-6, 251-2, 287, 

Sorel, 143 

South African Brigade, 293 
Spencer, Major R., M.C., xiii 
Spree Farm, 121 
Springfield, 122 
Steenbeek, the, 110, 119, 121 
Steenwerck, 200 
Stephenson, George, xvii, 303 
Stern, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Albert, 

K.B.E., C.M.G., 23, 30-1, 33-4, 

63, 66 


Stevin, Simon, 7-8 

Stewart, Sir Henry, 318 

Stewart, Captain Ian M., M.C., xv 

Stothert & Pitt, Messrs., 28 

Strahan, Captain, 232 

Suez Caneil, 98 

Summers, Major, 162 

Swanage, 164 

Swinton, Major-Gen. E. D., C.B., 
D.S.O., xii, 18, 20-2, 26, 29, 31, 
50-3, 66, 72 note, 159-60, 162 

Symes, Lieut. K. P., 32 

Tandy, Major, 161 

Tank Armoured Car Battalion, 
Seventeenth, xiii, 289-96 

Tank Corps : esprit-de-corps, xvi, 68- 
72 ; Headquarters Staff, xiv-xv 
60-2, 65, 103-7, 113, 174, 199, 218 
270 ; formation of iirst unit, 31 
first appearance in action, 54-6 
capture of the Gird Trench, 57 
reorganisation, 62-7 ; training 
centres, 62, 66-7, 159-65; methods 
of training, 67-71 ; mobile can- 
teens, 72 ; tank tactics, 73-80, 87, 
89, 104-7, 111-6, 136-43, 252-3, 
276-8 ; at the battle of Arras, 
81-97 ; at the Second Battle of 
Gaza, 98-102 ; at the battle of 
Messines, 108-12 ; at the Third 
Battle of Ypres, 117-24 ; mechani- 
cal engineering side, 125-9 ; at the 
ThirdBattleof Gaza, 130-4; at the 
battle of Cambrai, 140-53 ; issue 
of " Battle Notes," 154 ; growth in 
numbers, 172-3 ; at the Second 
Battle of the Somme, 173-7 ; re- 
duction in numbers, 199; first en- 
counter with German tanks, 201 ; 
preparations for the Great Offen- 
sive, 202—3 ; first experience of 
night warfare, 204 ; at the battle 
of Hamel, 204-7, 304-5; opera- 
tions with the French Army at the 
battle of Moreuil, 207-11 ; at the 
battle of Amiens, 218-29 ; exploits 
of Whippet Tank " Musical Box," 
230-5 ; co-operation with the 
Royal Air Force, 242-9 ; at the 
battle of Bapaume, 250-7 ; at the 
Second Battle of Axras, 257-9 ; at 
the battle of Epehy, 266-7 ; at the 
battle of Cambrai — St. Quentin 
268-75,304; heavy casualties, 276 
287; atthebattleoftheSelle,283-5 
at the battle of Maubeuge, 285 
last action of the War, 286 



tribute from Sir Douglas (now Earl) 
Haig, 287-8 

First Tank Brigade, xvi, 62, 
117-22, 146, 150-1, 168, 173, 200, 
218, 220, 242-4, 250-1, 256-8, 

Second Tank Brigade, xvi, 62 
109, 117-22, 146, 150-2, 172-3, 
200, 220, 251, 266 

Third Tank Brigade, 63, 117-23, 
139, 146, 172, 175, 200-2, 208-11, 
219-20, 222, 225-7, 243-4, 251, 
256-8, 266, 271-4 

Fourth Tank Brigade, 168, 172, 
174-6, 199-200, 219-21, 225-7, 
251-2, 256-8, 266-9, 271-4, 283-6 

Fifth Tank Brigade, 168, 172, 
200, 205, 208, 216, 219, 222, 226-7, 
243-6, 251-2, 254, 266, 271-4 
Tank Gun Carrier Companies, xii, 168 

Tank Park, 58 

Tank Signal Companies, 178-83 
Tank Supply Companies, 33-4, 109- 

10, 166-71, 286 
Tanks : their early origin, 1-2 ; 
armoured knights as living tank3, 
2 ; fifteenth- and sixteenth-century 
battle-cars, 2-8 ; Cugnot steam 
car, 8 ; endless chain, 9-13 ; in- 
vention of the landship, 18-29 ; 
how the name " tank " was chosen, 
*29; first official trial, 30; taken 
over by the War Office from the 
Admiralty, 31 ; order placed for 
the first hundred, 32 ; their first 
appearance in action, 54-6 ; more 
successful on their second appear- 
ance, 56-7 ; lessons learnt from 
their early operations, 58-9 ; limi- 
tations of early tanks, 105 ; first 
use of supply tanks, 109 ; intro- 
duction of cloud-smoke apparatus, 
165 ; French tanks, 184-98 ; Ger- 
man tanks, 212-6 ; not successful 
when attached to cavalry, 228-9 ; 
how they impressed the Germans, 
236-41 ; their co-operation with 
aeroplanes, 242 ; German defence 
against, 260 ; American tanks, 
279-82 ; retrospect of what they 
have accomplished, 297-307 ; fore- 
cast of what they may do, 308, 321 

Mark I Tanks, 35-7, 44, 49-53, 
63, 82, 89, 102, 105, 109-10, 166, 
185, 203, 213, 261 

Mark II, 37, 63, 89, 102, 110 

Mark III, 37, 63, 82 

Mark IV, 37-41, 44, 63, 109-10, 

122, 130, 141, 167-8, 173, 201, 203,. 
212, 214, 253, 255, 258, 261, 267, 

Mark V, 41-3, 199,202-3,206-7^ 
219,223, 227, 231, 253, 256, 267 
Mark VStar,43, 219,227,253,267 
Mark VIII, 279 
Mark IX, 167-8 

Medium Mark A (" Chaser" or 
"Whippet"), 10, 44-7, 164, 173, 
176,201-2, 219, 223-4, 226-9, 244,. 
253, 255, 258 

Daimler Type A.7.V., 212-3 
Renault, 185-6, 279 
St. Chamond, 184-5 
Schneider, 184-6 
Tank No. 505, 90-1 ; No. 716,_ 
95-6 ; No. 770, 91-2 ; No. 783, 
92-3 ; No. 784, 93-4 ; " Mabel," 
254-5; "Musical Box," 230-5;. 
" Tiger," 101 ; " Wytschaete Ex- 
press," in 
Tapper, Captain H. J., 61 
Tara Hill, 254 
Tarrant triplane, 316 
Telegraph Hill, 83, 91 
Tel El Ajjul, 99 
Tel EI Nujeid, 100 
Templeux la Fosse, 172 
Teneur, 127-8 
Thelus, 83 
Thetford, 34 
Thielt, M7 
Thiepval, 57 
Thilloy, 172, 257-8 
Tigny, 193 

Tilloy les Mafflaines, 83-5, 273 
Tilly-Capelle, 62 
Tortoise Hill, 133 
Touteneourt, 200 

Trench Warfare Department, 28-& 
Trescault, 269 
Triangle Farm, 122-3 
Tritton, Sir William, 24-6, 31 
Trones Wood, 55 

Tulloch, Captain T. G., 18, 20-2, 32^ 
Tunnelling Company, 184th, 117 

Umbrella Hill, 130-2 
Usna HiU, 254 

UzicUi, Colonel T. J., D.S.O., M.C • 
xiv-xv, 61 

Vaire Wood, 205, 207 
Valenciennes, 81, 144, 284-5 
Valturio, 5 
Vauban, 14 

Vaux-Vraucourt, 174, 258 
Vaux Andigny, 283 



Vaux en Amienois, 205, 209 

Velu Wood, 172, 258 

Vendhuile, 270 

Verdrel, Bois de, 1 73 

Verdun, 184 

Vesle, the, 188 

Vieille Capelle, 200 

Vignacourt, 245 

Villemontoire, 193 

Villers-au-Flos, 55, 258 

Villers-Bretonneux, 169, 201-2, 205, 

215, 231, 235 
Villers-Cotterets, 189, 191 
Villers-Guislain, 143, 146, 151-2, 270 
Villers-les-Cagnicourt, 259 
Villers-Outreaux, 275 
Vimy, 83-5 
Vis-en-Artois, 83 

Wadi El Nukhabir, 99 

Wadi Ghuzze, 100 

Wahl, Colonel, 187 

Wailly, 71, 172, 175 

Wambeke Valley, 111 

Wancourt, 86, 91-2, 257 

War Office, 9, 22, 25, 29-30, 32, 158-9 

Wareham, 162 

Warfus^e, 205-6, 291 

Warren, the, 101 

Warvillers, 225 

Waterhouse, Lieutenant, 232 

Waterloo, 276 
Watkins, Lieutenant, 232 
Watt, James, 8, 303 
Wellington, 14 
Wells, H. G., 303 
Wembley, 27 

West, Captain, V.C, 246-7 
West Indian Detachment, 130 
Wheeler, Major G. L., 25, 31 
Wilson, Major W. G., 25-6, 31-2, 303 
Wiltje, 120 

Winnipeg Cemetery, 122 
Woods, Lieut.-Colonel H. K., 209 
Wool Tank Corps Training Centre, 
xii, 62-4, 66-7, 162-5, 279-81, 289 
Worgret Camp, 162 
Wright Brothers, 316 
Wrisberg, General von, 240 
Wurmser, xiv 
Wytschaete, 108-11, 119 

Ypres,xvi, 14-6, 108-9, H3rao(e, 114, 
117-24, 129, 138-9, 153, 166, 242, 
261, 304, 306 

Ytres, 143 

Yunus Trench, 101, 131, 133 

Yvrench, 34 

Zeebrugge, 14 

Zoo Trench, 92 

Zowaiid Trench, 101, 131